New county fire district possible

 


Discussion about the possibility of forming a county-wide fire protection district took place last week in Rawlins.

The meeting took place May 21 at Fire Station #2 in Rawlins, and many residents from across Carbon County and Wamsutter attended. All five Carbon County commissioners, and Carbon County Fire Warden John Rutherford, were present and in favor of going forward with the proposed fire protection district.

According to a handout with calculations based on an estimated three mill levy per area, based on example, a homeowner with a $200,000 house would pay $57 a year, or $4.75 per month, for the fire protection district.

Rutherford said a fire protection district would help communities that can’t afford the high costs of maintaining a modern fire department. He said more funding would be available through a county-wide district.

“If we go county-wide, there will still be more funding available than what the county gets now,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford said creating a county-wide fire district would enable the updating of equipment, such as air packs, across communities.

“If the counties buy into it, they’ll be more organized because we’ll have one set of standards for equipment,” he said. “There will be better consistency with the equipment. Some municipalities may also have three different types of air packs instead of one, but we want them to be well-trained on one rather than three different types. Some municipalities may also have lots of apparatuses, while others only have a few pieces.”


Rutherford said the new district would enable the standardization of department training.

“We’ll have more money available for more and better training from instructors,” he said.

While some at the meeting expressed concerns about adding a fire district tax to the ballot this November, along with a proposed hospital district tax and the fifth-penny tax, no communities raised strong opposition to the fire district idea.

“There really isn’t a downside other than more tax,” Rutherford said. “Although it will cost taxpayers more money, by far they’ll get more bang for their buck. I know there may be some concerns, but anything new is going to bring up some red flags.”

Rutherford said it is too early to say what the budget might be if the fire district is approved, but that the Carbon County Fire Department’s current budget is $330,000 a year. He and the commissioners agreed that additional meetings are needed to better entice the idea toward voters.

“We wanted to allow people to go home and digest everything after the meeting, since that was a lot of information given really quickly,” Rutherford said. “We visited with constituents afterward to see how they felt, and we’ll have another meeting again. The time and date is still yet to be determined, and we need to figure out how we want to proceed and go from there.”

 

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