Debate over West Vail firehouse shifts
A firehouse will be built in West Vail, town officials insist, but the actual decision to build it – which just a few weeks ago seemed imminent – may now face more delays.
Various town officials and most of its firefighters have for 22 years argued the town needs a third station and crew to respond more rapidly to emergencies in heavily-residential West Vail.
“We have committed to building a third fire station in West Vail and we’ve committed to updating the main fire station,” Vail Town Councilman Dick Cleveland, who has been heavily involved in the issue, said last week. “We’re moving toward those goals.”
Shorter response times
Vail’s two fire stations are now on Meadow Drive, near, Vail Village, and in East Vail. Over the past three decades, several consultants have strongly endorsed building a third station in West Vail to shorten response times to the neighborhood’s homes and businesses. Studies done by consultants have shown fire service would improve throughout the town if a third station was manned with another fire crew.
In recent years, those consultants also have urged the town to renovate its headquarters near the village.
A West Vail station, first promised to residents in 1981, was endorsed – only in concept – by the Town Council last month. They decided to build the $2 million to $4 million station on a piece of land the town owns behind Wendy’s and the Texaco station, north of I-70.
Bring in the district
Town Council members appeared ready to put on the November ballot a property-tax increase needed to pay for construction. This week, however, council members appear intrigued by the idea someone else could pay for the station – namely, the Eagle River Fire Protection District, which has jurisdiction from Edwards to Avon to Minturn and Red Cliff.
Instead of a tax increase, Vail voters now may be asked in November to approve a merger between the Vail Fire Department and the Fire District. Voters would have to approve giving a portion of town property taxes to the fire district,headquartered in Avon.
Vail’s lawyer, Matt Mire, has been directed to draw up a ballot question asking residents if they want Vail to join the valleywide fire district, a decision already made by Minturn and Red Cliff voters last year.
“I think we should have that available,” said Vail Town Councilman Bill Jewitt. “If we come up with the information necessary in the next three weeks, we can pull the trigger on it.”
Mire, meanwhile, also has been asked to write a ballot question that would ask residents to consider the small property-tax increase that would enable Vail to build the station on its own. The Town Council may decide next month to put one of the questions on the November ballot.
What about The Beav?
Meanwhile, Vail also is having continuing discussions with the Beaver Creek Metropolitan District about sharing fire services.
Cleveland said over the next three weeks the town also will continue discussing a merger with not only the valleywide fire district, but also the Eagle County Ambulance District. Some people in eastern Eagle County are advocating combining firefighters and paramedics under one agency, similar to the kinds of fire-rescue departments that have been successful in many other American counties, cities and towns.
But Cleveland said Vail residents – some of whom have been waiting more than two decades for the station – should not worry that these negotiations will prevent either the town of Vail or the fire district from building the West Vail firehouse.
“We’re continuing to look at a number of alternatives to accomplish what we’ve committed to do,” Cleveland said.
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at email@example.com.