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Commissioners OK Service Plan for Proposed Fire District

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners gave their blessing at their January 26th regular meeting for the Tallahassee Volunteer Fire Department to move forward with their proposal to ask voters to create a new fire district in northwest Fremont County.   The Commissioners’ approval of the service plan came after a nearly 90 minute public hearing in which organizers detailed their proposal while several opponents questioned how emergency services will be delivered.

Colorado law requires that when a new special district is proposed a service plan has to be presented to the Board of County Commissioners for their approval.   Tallahassee Volunteer Fire Chief Gordon Grosslight and Attorney Mike Meyrick detailed the proposal at the hearing.   The plan proposes that the new district would cover a service area across much of northwest Fremont County on either side of Colorado Highway 9 including the Tallahassee area and the Deer Park area towards the Teller County line.

Grosslight said contrary to rumors the new district intends to respond to fight structure fires in addition to wild fires.   He also said volunteers will respond to render medical first aid to patients until an ambulance can arrive on scene.   He said establishing ambulance service would be a long term goal for at least five years into the future.   Grosslight said initially the new fire district would not assess a property tax mill levy but continue to rely on contributions and fees for service.

Several residents expressed doubt about how creation of a fire district would improve service to such a vast rural area and criticized past responses.   Roberta Herring was one of several residents who said they were threatened by a volunteer that if they didn’t pay their dues and they had a fire their house would simply burn down.   Volunteer firefighter Jerry Worthley said he’s seen nothing but dedication from the firefighters and never has there been an implication that they wouldn’t respond to everyone’s home.

Grosslight said among the incentives to form a legal fire district is to possibly lower insurance costs for residents in the area as well as qualify the department to receive various grants to improve equipment and services.   While several residents had requested that their property be excluded from the new fire district, Meyrick said that would pose a problem for firefighters because a fire on those properties that would not prompt a fire department response could quickly spread to adjoining properties and cause bigger problems.

The Board of Commissioners approved the Tallahassee Fire District service plan as proposed and did not exclude any of the properties.   The next step for organizers is to take their plan to the District Court.   If the judge approves the service plan an election date would be set in which property owners within the proposed boundaries would have the final say on whether to create the new Tallahassee Fire District.

Another lengthy public hearing at the January 26th meeting saw the Board of Commissioners approve a Special Review Use Permit for Jennice Fagin to sell a commercial hay product to customers from her ranch property at 3rd and ‘I’ Streets in Penrose.   Neighbors had filed complaints over a year ago about the impacts to the neighborhood from semi-trucks delivering the pallets of hay to Fagin’s property while parked on the county road with a forklift unloading the pallets on the roadway.    Fagin contended that her sale of the hay should be treated the same as anyone else in the Penrose area who sells agricultural products.

The Commissioners approved the permit with the requirement that Fagin improve the driveway on her farmyard to allow the semi-trucks to pull onto her property to unload the pallets.   The Board said those improvements must be made before the next load of hay is delivered.   The Commissioners also urged Fagin and her neighbors to get along and did not want to hear any reports of retaliation.

In other business at the January 26th Commissioners meeting the Board:

  • Approved a resolution honoring Fremont County Clerk and Recorder’s Office Recording Director Susan Justus for her exemplary work over more than 36 years as she prepares to retire;
  • Appointed Bill Edwardson and Annette Ortega to new three year terms on the Fremont County Weed Advisory Board and appointed John Sandefur to fill one year of an unexpired term on the Board;
  • Approved an annual contract with the Fremont County Humane Society to impound stray dogs and cats from unincorporated areas at a fee of $34,167 from the Sheriff’s budget;
  • Heard an annual report from Mike Madone of the Fremont County Heritage Commission who detailed the number of buildings being added to the county’s historical building registry;
  • Approved modifications to the Fremont County Airport’s Rules and Regulations and the security plan;
  • Approved a $58,227 expenditure to replace fire sprinkler heads in the front section of the Fremont County Jail which date back to the jail’s opening in 1988.   Vandal proof sprinkler heads will also be installed in the two pods of the newest section of the jail.