Eagle River Fire Protection District will ask voters in May for a property tax increase | VailDaily.com

Eagle River Fire Protection District will ask voters in May for a property tax increase

Eagle River Fire Protection District seeking money for equipment

The Eagle River Fire Protection District is asking voters this spring for a property tax increase to help fund and maintain equipment and facilities.
Eagle River Fire Protection District/Vail Daily archive
For more information You can email Eagle River Fire Protection District Public Information Officer Tracy Trulove at ttrulove@eagleriverfire.org, or district Chief Karl Bauer at kbauer@eagleriverfire.org.

The Eagle River Fire Protection District this spring is asking voters for some financial help.

The district — which runs from the top of Tennessee Pass to Wolcott, but excludes Vail — at the May 2 election will ask voters for a 2 mill property tax increase. The increase would raise roughly $2 million per year. If approved, the money will be used exclusively for equipment and maintenance, along with facility maintenance. The increase would be just less than $12 for every $1 million in assessed value.

The district was set in 2020 to ask voters the same question in the May special district elections. But the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the district board to pull the question off the ballot.

District Chief Karl Bauer said the equipment list includes both replacement and new gear.

The replacement items include a new ladder truck and self-contained breathing apparatus for firefighters. New gear would include wildland firefighting equipment including both large and smaller wildland trucks.

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In a previous interview, District Board member Darell Wegert noted that the current truck is 10 or 12 years old and nearing the end of its useful life.

“Everything has an expiration date,” Bauer said. The district has a “decision matrix” to decide when it’s time to upgrade or replace gear.

“We look into the future so we can plan ahead,” Bauer said.

Bauer added that if voters approve the tax hike, the district will buy a new ladder truck and keep the old one in reserve. When the current truck is sidelined for repairs or routine maintenance, the Vail Fire Department is alerted and that ladder truck is available if needed.

Fire equipment is expensive, and built to order. Bauer said a new ladder truck wouldn’t be delivered for roughly two years, and will probably cost more than $1.2 million.

As the valley’s population grows, more people are living in wildfire territory. That’s why both large and small wildland fire trucks are needed, to both build on the available equipment inventory and have trucks in reserve. An accident on Interstate 70 can knock a truck out of commission for as much as six months, Bauer said.

In addition to the big gear, Bauer said the district is looking into the condition of its self-contained breathing apparatus gear. That gear is worn into smoky buildings and other places where breathable air is hard to find.

Bauer said if that gear needs to be replaced, it will all be replaced at once, so firefighters don’t have to question what kind of gear they’re using.

The ballot question was certified Friday. That means that district officials, including board members, can’t campaign for it on company time.

Bauer said a campaign committee is ready to get to work, adding “we invite the community to ask questions.”

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