Recession slows plans for new Silverthorne fire station
summit daily news
SILVERTHORNE – A property tax increase approved by voters in November will help Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue recover some of the revenue it lost to the recession, but not enough to cover the cost of a new fire station planned in Silverthorne.
Fortunately, the same economic contraction that doused the district’s income also slowed population growth in Silverthorne, buying Lake Dillon some time before demand for services will require the new building to be constructed.
“At this point, the demand is not there because the growth tailed off,” Lake Dillon spokesman Steve Lipsher said.
In the meantime, fire officials say they are setting aside money generated by the mill levy increase to help cover the building’s estimated $3 million price tag.
The district will need to come up with an additional $750,000 annually to operate and staff the facility around the clock, officials said.
The financial questions surrounding the station were among the sticking points that helped kill talks for a consolidation between the Upper Blue Basin’s Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District and Lake Dillon.
“Lake Dillon had not reached the stage of discussions on how it would be financed,” Red, White and Blue fire chief Jim Keating said. “It just became one of several issues that really needed some research and work.”
The two districts announced they were ending discussions around a possible merger in January, citing “issues” that could not be resolved. Smaller-than-anticipated projections for cost savings, accreditation and the Silverthorne fire station were among them, Lake Dillon fire chief Dave Parmley said.
“This project alone I don’t think was an overriding factor for the decisions that have been made about consolidation,” he said. “It was one of many.”
Red, White and Blue officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Plans for the new station began in 2007, when revenues from property taxes in a booming economy were still strong. At the time, fire officials saw the potential increased need for services on the north side of Silverthorne, where population and development was growing. Fire departments strategically place fire stations with the goal of limiting response times to 4 minutes.
Lake Dillon began working with the town of Silverthorne to secure land through a trade in an area where the town was also planning to build a number of public facilities and also designed plans for the future single-story station before the recession slowed work on the project.
Still, fire officials say the new station will still be necessary eventually, especially as more and more Lower Blue Basin residents north of the Silverthorne town limits voluntarily include themselves into the Lake Dillon Fire district. The inclusions -there were 50 properties that opted in last year – will also provide additional property tax revenue that could help fund the project.
The earliest construction can be expected to begin is 2015.
The mill levy increase voters approved in November provides Lake Dillon with roughly $550,000 annually, but it’s not enough to offset the $1.2 million the district lost when property values plummeted after the recession hit, or the additional $600,000 hit the budget is expected to absorb in 2014, accounting for a continued, though slower drop in property values.
Officials say the new money is being directed to capital expenses, equipment, training and staff salaries to help the district avoid losing experienced firefighters to higher-paying departments.
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