Vote ‘yes’ on 6A to support fire and EMS services
Colorado House representative
Our helpers need our help.
That is the message sent when the Summit Fire & EMS board of directors placed Issue 6A on this year’s election ballot.
For a number of reasons, the fire district — which includes all property in Copper Mountain, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne, as well as the unincorporated areas of Keystone, Summit Cove and Wildernest — is asking voters for a 4 mill property-tax increase, the equivalent of an additional $144 annually on a house with a valuation of $500,000.
Primarily, Issue 6A extends a tax supporting EMS services that was passed by voters in the 2014 Safety First ballot issue, set to expire in 2022. Beyond that, however, it also addresses additional budget constraints, such as decreased medical-billing reimbursement rates and the escalating costs of services, staffing and equipment for an all-hazards response agency ever-more in demand.
Passage of this measure will ensure that Summit Fire & EMS has the financial stability to operate at the high level we have come to expect for the foreseeable future; failure would mean cutbacks in services and delays in meeting future needs, including a proposed fire station in Silverthorne and routine apparatus replacement.
When we think of all the calls that our firefighters and medics take on — medical crises, vehicle crashes, structure fires and hazmat incidents among them — we realize they truly do make the difference between life and death in so many cases.
An issue close to my heart and a priority in my work at the state Capitol is building the capacity and ability to quickly and efficiently control wildfires. Wildfire preparedness and response is critically important because it can mean the difference between disaster and community resilience, as we just recently saw in the incredible, wonderfully successful outcome of the Ptarmigan Fire.
As the primary response agency for wildfires, Summit Fire has been bolstering its efforts in both prevention and preparedness — including free home wildfire assessments and educational outreach — and initial attack and longer-term wildfire deployments. This summer, for instance, it redeployed three people from their regular duties on response crews to a pilot seasonal wildfire program that helps coordinate all of the wildfire efforts.
And considering that well more than half of the emergency calls to Summit Fire & EMS are for medical assistance, we are extremely fortunate that the organization has maintained the highest standards for its professional cadre of paramedics and EMTs, recently earning a Mission: Lifeline silver award — receiving honors for the third year in a row — from the American Heart Association for excellence in care for heart attacks.
None of this will be possible without a fully staffed, well-equipped, well-trained, responsive, community-focused fire department. Passage of Issue 6A would allow Summit Fire & EMS to maintain its priorities in funding wildfire response, emergency medical services, ambulance transports, capital improvements and equipment replacement, as well as recruitment, training and retention of personnel.
I’ve worked alongside representatives of Summit Fire & EMS in various capacities for years and have grown to appreciate their professionalism, capabilities and care for our community. This is an extremely well-run special-district organization run by careful stewards of our tax dollars, and I have full confidence that they would not be asking for additional funding if they didn’t have the need.
In the public arena, everyone says they love and support our firefighters and medics, those hard-working, low-profile public servants who rush out at all hours of the day, in all kinds of weather, often putting themselves at risk to help us on some of our worst days. It’s time for us to show our support for them.
State Rep. Julie McCluskie is in her second term representing House District 61, encompassing Summit, Delta, Gunnison, Lake and Pitkin counties. She will serve as the chairwoman of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee and has served as a member of the Wildfire Matters Review Committee. She is a resident of Summit Cove.
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