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Cordillera still contesting ambulance service

Dustin Racioppi
dracioppi@vaildaily.com
Cordillera, CO Colorado

CORDILLERA, Colorado ” The Cordillera Territory saga continues as locals continue looking for ways to break away from the Western Eagle County Ambulance District for what they say is in the best interest of the community’s health and welfare.

The Cordillera Property Owners Association sent a letter to the Eagle County Commissioners this week again requesting county support to remove the Cordillera Territories ” an area of about 260 homes ” from the Western district’s response area.

Commissioner Peter Runyon couldn’t speak much to the county’s involvement and referred to attorney Brian Treu, who was out of the office the last half of the week and unable to be reached. Runyon did say that Treu and staff have been given direction on the issue.

The issue is this: Homeowners in the Cordillera Territory, according president of the Board of Directors, Elise Micati, don’t want to be part of Western Eagle’s jurisdiction because the district hasn’t provided services to the area but has been collecting taxes.

That changed, though, on Jan. 1 when the district started providing services to the territory. But the owners association still isn’t happy with that, mostly because Western Eagle’s response time is longer than that of Eagle County Ambulance District ” who was responding to the area until January. Western Eagle is 11 1/2 miles farther from the territory than the Edwards station Eagle Ambulance dispatches from, said Eagle Ambulance General Manager Fred Morrison.

“You have at least 12 minutes of additional response time, and that’s if we have pristine conditions,” said Joe Wilson, district manager for the Cordillera Metro District. “In an emergency, every minute matters.”

According to Western Eagle’s Chief, Chris Montera, the district is merely following state law. The district cannot do anything unless a petition with all of the territory’s homeowners is presented to the district’s Board of Directors, he said. That petition still hasn’t been produced, he said.

“In order for an area to exclude, it has to be 100 percent of the property owners. It’s the law,” Montera said. “It’s important that we follow the law for everybody on this issue, and it’s for both sides.”

Wilson said the metro district has rounded up about 90 percent of the homeowners’ signatures. After the petition is presented, Montera said, the district will have to collect a $1,500 fee from each property owner to conduct a study on the feasibility of the territory’s exclusion, then hold a public hearing on the matter. With about 260 residents in the territory, that’s close to $400,000 in fee collections.

“That’s an exorbitant amount to pay for a study that will state the obvious ” that they’re getting money for something they don’t provide services for,” Wilson said.

Wilson believes there are other ways to accomplish the exclusion. In fact, the metro district has tried to come to a resolution with Western Eagle that would offer money over two years to the district to try and soften the blow of losing a substantial revenue source, he said.

Wilson said one other way the exclusion can be accomplished is that county officials can try and facilitate a decision and leave it to a district judge to decide. He also said Western Eagle can offer to change its boundaries and let affected residents vote on it.

Considering Western Eagle brought in about $145,000 in tax revenues from the Cordillera Territory last year, Wilson said he understands why the district would want to keep the area. He also believes the district’s managers understand the issue at hand.

“I think they’re truly trying to do what’s right, but they have bosses,” Wilson said.

Montera said he knows the concerns that have been lingering the last few years, but he only sees it one way, and that’s what the law says.

“We understand the issue. We’ve been going through this for four-and-a-half years,” Montera said. “We want people to understand that we will follow the law to protect everybody involved by following the law.”

Montera said he believes if a valid petition is brought forward, the exclusion could happen within a year.

Dustin Racioppi can be reached at 970-748-2936 or dracioppi@vaildaily.com.


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