Minturn fire station nears completion | VailDaily.com

Minturn fire station nears completion

Geraldine Haldner

That’s a first for the town, where fire protection began in 1908 with a bucket and a ladder, say some local history buffs.

Minturn and neighboring Red Cliff have long depended on outside help to aid their dwindling volunteer fire departments in time of need. With a combined budget of $1.5 million, both towns have been struggling for years to keep their volunteers trained, equipped and motivated.

In May, residents voted to raise their property-tax rates and join the Eagle River Fire District. Instead of struggling with fewer and fewer volunteers and increasingly costly equipment, they reasoned, it would be better to leave fire protection and emergency rescue responses to the trained – and more importantly paid – professionals.

The district, which covers the Eagle River Valley from Eagle-Vail to Edwards, including Cordillera, Singletree, Beaver Creek and Arrowhead, has 60 full-time firefighters working out of six fire stations. A seventh station will open within the next two weeks in Cordillera.

Then it’s Minturn’s turn. A 4,400-square-foot fire station is modest but functional, says Charlie Moore, the district’s fire chief.

“The primary factor that determined the programming was the budget,” he said of the $400,000 structure on the corner of Pine Street and Toledo Street. “It’s not a big station, but it is going to meet our needs and allow us to serve Minturn and Red Cliff.”

The metal building will house two fire trucks and as many as five firefighters.

“We are very excited to get in it soon,” Moore said, adding that he expects to hold an open house sometime in the later half of February. “Moving in and setting it up should take us only a week or less,” he said.

Nine months into including the two towns and a 12-mile-long, one-mile-wide swatch of U.S. Highway 24, Moore says the district has been functioning well.

“We had a small fire in Avon, and the Red Cliff folks came to help us out,” he said of the cooperation between the district’s individual crews.

As part of the inclusion, Moore offered to hire and train the remaining volunteers in accordance with the district’s policy to reimburse all of its staff.

The two-story building the second new structure in less than five years in Minturn, which used to have “one foot on a banana peel and the other in bankruptcy,” as Town Manager Alan Lanning describes it.

Following a costly legal fight with Vail Resorts over old water rights, the town in 1999 was on the verge of becoming insolvent, a warden of Eagle County.

Armed with creative financing tools, the town was able to fight back bankruptcy and build a new town hall in 2000 using investors’ money and garnering a long-term tenant agreement with the U.S. Postal Service to pay back the debt.

In addition to the fire station, the town’s new public works facility has was completed just two weeks ago. The 3,200-square-foot building on Cemetery Road is making room for a small office area and a large open space used to store and maintain Minturn’s small fleet of heavy equipment.

Both new buildings were financed, in part, with grants from the U.S. Department of Local Affairs from a fund that helps towns suffering from the effects of mining. Minturn is downstream from the Gilman Mine, which for years polluted the Eagle River.

The fire station, Lanning said, was financed with a $200,000 natural resources impact grant, a $10,000 donation from the Gallegos family, $75,000 from the fire district and $115,000 from town coffers.

The $300,000 public works shop was financed entirely with the natural resources impact grant.

Geraldine Haldner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com.




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