Fire district gets approval on employee building
DILLON VALLEY – Lake Dillon Fire Chief Francis Winston gained permission Monday from the Summit Board of County Commissioners to build a six-unit employee housing building in Dillon Valley. The new building, slated for completion by fall, will allow the fire district to nearly double its resident firefighter program.
Resident firefighters receive housing, minimum wage, tuition toward an associate’s degree in fire science, and training in exchange for their services as a firefighter.
Currently, the Lake Dillon district has 12 resident firefighters. When the new building is completed, it will allow the district to increase its residents to 24.
“The location is good because we can use the folks in that building to staff additional vehicles out of the Dillon Valley fire station,” Winston said. “They can walk to the fire station. It’s just one more way I can get a truck out pretty quickly.”
Nevertheless, not everyone is happy about it.
The building will take up a now-vacant lot at the corner of Straight Creek Drive and Deerpath Trail. Gretchen Norton, who owns a nearby Dillon Valley West condominium, would like to see the lot remain vacant.
“My main concern is, why doesn’t the fire district just buy six units in (Dillon Valley) East or West and use those?” she said.
Winston admits he thought about doing just that.
“We talked about buying units,” he said. “This really is an issue of affordable employee housing. If I went out and bought six units off the market, that’s six units that’s not available for affordable units.
“Obviously, this is a capital investment, but I think most people agree owning something is better than renting something. If we truly felt the housing was a short-term issue, then renting might make sense. But I don’t think it’s going to go away. It’s also a control issue on my part. When you have off-site housing, there’s always problems. Certainly, having them in one building is far easier.”
Winston also said the lot the district is buying for the building is private land.
“It was never part of Dillon Valley West,” he said. “I think it’s cheaper than if I bought into a condo complex where I’m paying somebody else to manage my property.”
Norton also pointed out that the new building will increase density in the area, which already is home to Dillon Valley West and the Meadows condominiums.
“There will be no open or green space for kids, and there are more and more kids,” she said. “I’m worried about congestion at that intersection.”
“I understand what she’s saying, but welcome to growth in Summit County, I guess,” Winston said. “I don’t like it either. Change is difficult. When they built (housing) behind where I live, I wasn’t very happy either, but I knew it was there and the potential was there.
“Certainly we’d be receptive to anybody that has a complaint about how we’re managing it. I want to be as good a neighbor as possible.”
Funds to build the $700,000 building will come from the fire district’s recently approved mill levy increase.
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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