Declining revenue, increasing calls lead Grand Fire to ask voters for help
Tax revenue for the Grand Fire Protection District was $1.4 million in 2011.
Tens years later, revenue has fallen to $1.34 million — but calls for the fire district covering 152 square miles of Grand County have doubled in the last seven years. Grand Fire Chief Brad White expects it to double again within the next five.
With revenues not keeping up with the demand on the fire district charged with protecting Granby and the surrounding areas, Grand Fire is asking voters for a mill levy override this November — Ballot Issue 6A.
Combining the district’s current mills and bond debt, taxpayers in the fire district currently pay 8.25 mills on their property. The bond debt of 3.8 mills ends in 2025, so Grand Fire is asking to go to 10 mills total for the district.
If passed, Ballot Issue 6A would roll the bond debt into the department’s operating budget instead of letting it expire, along with giving the district an additional 1.75 mills in revenue.
The additional cost to residential property would be $12.19 per $100,000. This would raise an additional $341,000 for Grand Fire annually, which would go toward capital upgrades, fire prevention and personnel costs.
“As we look at where the community’s going, it’s pretty obvious that we need to get on the ball of some of these things and get caught up on a few things,” White said.
Because of its reduced revenues over the years, White explained that the fire department has deferred a number of capital purchases, namely vehicle upgrades and a new fire station. Six fire engines and trucks are more than two decades old. Three are over 25 years old.
With the 2004 bond measure, Grand Fire made plans to eventually build the Northern Service Station on County Road 40, but it has yet to be completed. The market has made it impossible for the department to build the station with current funding, and response times to the north side of the district continue to drop because of the increased traffic through Granby.
Grand Fire also depends on a volunteer staffing model with 18 volunteer firefighters.
“We get days where three, four, five times a day, we’re asking them to drop what they’re doing to handle calls,” White said. “It really puts a lot of stress on them workwise and family-wise.”
Grand Fire responds to nearly 300 calls a year, as compared to less than 100 in 2004, and only has five full-time staff members. The fire department also employs three seasonal firefighters and houses nine resident volunteer firefighters.
At the same time, Grand Fire is seeing rising interest from homeowners, businesses, contractors and architects to be fire ready. The fire department tries to do plan reviews and give recommendations on areas of concern, along with continued efforts toward fire inspections and mitigation efforts.
“That’s great and we want to encourage (fire prevention),” White said. “But we need to bolster our staff there.”
Along with increasing wages to make the district’s pay for firefighters more competitive, White expects to add more paid positions in the coming years to keep up with the demand.
Without this ballot measure, White said the district could run out of reserve funds by 2030 while not implementing any of the necessary capital upgrades to meet the growth of the community.
Along with the safety concerns that entails, White worries this could put the department’s Insurance Services Office fire ratings at risk. With a poor ISO rating, homeowners could see insurance rates go up.
White said he is confident that, if passed, Measure 6A would put Grand Fire in a good position for the coming decades.
“To us, this is about being prepared for the next 10 years,” White said. “We’ve got 10 years to build the department we need ten years from now. If we wait until eight years from now, we’re going to be really behind the ball.”
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