Edwards gets its first look at new firehouse plan
February 23, 2017
EDWARDS — Mid-valley voters got their first look this week at what they're buying with the $25 million property tax increase they approved last spring. The Eagle River Fire Protection District hosted an open house in the temporary station they've been calling home since 1985.
The $25 million in new tax revenue will be spent on:
• $12 million for the fire district's combined fire and police facility in Avon.
• $13 million for a new fire station in Edwards, as well as the training facility on the Eagle County Paramedic Services site in Edwards.
No other approvals needed
Because it's a government entity, the fire district does not have to slog through Eagle County's planning and approval process, or meetings with the county's planning commission and board of county commissioners. Under Colorado law, the only approval the fire district needs is a majority vote by its own board.
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In other words, meetings like Wednesday's open house hosted by the fire district will be the public's only chance to comment.
However, Chief Karl Bauer told a group of locals gathered Wednesday that district officials are listening, and they intend to be good neighbors.
"This is an opportunity for us talk about the level of service that we believe you want us to provide, and how you want us to provide that service," Bauer told Wednesday's gathering.
"Tell us what you like, tell us what you don't," Bauer told the group.
It's the public's expectation that when someone calls 911, something is going to happen, and happen quickly, Bauer said.
"It requires certain things for us to make that happen," Bauer said.
Emergency responses should be "organized, sufficiently staffed, properly trained and equipped," Bauer said.
The closest training facilities are in Dotsero. The next closest is in Summit County. The problem is that training in either location takes crews out of service and renders them unable to quickly respond to calls, district officials say.
The fire district looked at 26 sites in the area before settling on a combination of the fire district's site — called Tract K — and the Edwards ambulance district site. The fire district bought Tract K from local real estate developer Rick Mueller in 2016. The sale was contingent on voters passing the tax, which they did on May 3, 2016. The sale closed in June.
The last time Tract K was in the public eye, Mueller was trying to donate it to Habitat for Humanity for the nonprofit homebuilder to construct condominiums. That proposal was shot down by the Eagle County Commissioners.
Throughout the years, Tract K has been seen at least seven development proposals come and go.
"It is important that we have adequate fire protection, and the current facility in Edwards is probably not adequate to serve all the growth that has happened since it was built in the 1980s. In that regard some redevelopment and a new structure are appropriate," local Chris Neuswanger said. "But the current proposal is really a massive structure, so large in fact that landscaping to soften it won't even fit on the site, and is proposed to be installed on neighboring properties owned by the Homestead Homeowners Association."
The Eagle River Fire Protection District's coverage area is 186 square miles, from Tennessee Pass to Minturn on U.S. Highway 24, and west along Highway 6 and Interstate 70 to Wolcott. The town of Vail has its own fire department. The district runs five full-time fire stations.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.