County fire services come up for review
|Members of the Price City Fire Department handle a home blaze late last month. The chiefs from all local fire departments have voted in favor of creating a district that would manage fire response for the whole county. |
Spring has ushered in new discussion on the formation of a county wide fire services district and brought to light some unfinished business between cities and Carbon County.
Emergency Services Director Jason Llewelyn updated the board of commissioners at their April 16 meeting on the most recent gathering of county fire chiefs. The main topic tackled by the chiefs was the establishment of a district that would bring the separate departments under one umbrella.
"All of the chiefs were in favor of forming the district and would like to meet formally with the commissioners to discuss it," said Llewelyn. "A district would increase ability to apply for grants for services and equipment."
Llewelyn explained that if the entity were formed each city would elect its own officials and that the chiefs would elect their own governing body.
According to www.sonomasuperiorcourt.com/download/GrandJury, "Special districts are units of local government established by the residents of an area to provide services not provided by the county or cities. Special districts are either enterprise or non-enterprise.
Enterprise districts, such as water or sanitation districts, charge fees for their services (Price River Water Improvement District is an example of an enterprise district). Non-enterprise districts get their major source of revenue through property taxes.
Special districts are also classified as either dependent or independent districts. A dependent district operates under the control of a county board of supervisors or a city council. An independent district operates under a local elected board of directors."
While Llewelyn and the fire chiefs appear to see a variety of advantages in banding together, county commissioners delved somewhat into the inherent problems of ongoing funding.
"What if the special district funding dries up?" Commissioner Mike Milovich asked.
He said that if that were to be the case how would the services be affected.
However, despite the funding question, Milovich agreed that the personnel providing fire services to Carbon County need to be compensated.
"We've got to be able to start paying people or we will end up putting out fires with our garden hoses," he said.
As for the existing departments and their solvency, the commissioners considered for the second time a proposal from the Wellington Fire Department that the county buy what the city is deeming a surplus fire truck.
"Wellington wants you to buy it," said Llewelyn. "But all other chiefs don't want you to buy it."
|East Carbon fire officials work to put out a dumpster fire this winter. East Carbon city was also in on the discussion concerning a new district. |
He said that the general consensus was that Wellington should keep the truck for backup needs.
Commissioner Bill Krompel pointed out that the county itself doesn't have a place to store a truck or have direct need for one but made a suggestion that perhaps the county could buy it and donate it to another city.
It appeared from Llewelyn's remarks however, that the other cities weren't really interested in the truck.
Additionally, the contract between the county and the City of East Carbon for fire services which has been hanging up in the air since November was tackled at the April 16 meeting.
East Carbon Mayor Orlando LaFontaine queried the commissioners as to when a formal contract would be complete and ready for signing. The contract under discussion calls for Carbon County to pay the city $5,000 a year and the mayor seemed anxious to finalize it.
"We want to have a interlocal agreement," LaFontaine said.
He said that his department is incurring expenses such as the cost for National Incident Management Systems training.
NIMS is a well-developed training program that facilitates NIMS training throughout the nation, growing the number of adequately-trained and qualified emergency management/response personnel, according to /www.fema.gov/emergency/nims.
Carbon County Attorney Christian Bryner told the commissioners and LaFontaine that he and Llewelyn would craft the document.
"Jason and I will sit down next week come up with one for you," Llewelyn said to LaFontaine.
The commissioners had been discussing creating one contract that could be applied to its agreements with each city for fire services and renewing them at the same time to streamline the process. However, the idea of a fire district has added a new dimension to the overall process.
However, despite that concept being bandied about the county will go forth with developing the agreement.
"I will have the fire contracts done in two weeks," Bryner said.