Police, fire seek to combine facilities in Avon
The Eagle River Fire Protection District covers much of the Eagle River, from the top of Tennessee Pass to Wolcott. It doesn’t include the town of Vail. Taxpayers in the district will be asked to fund the new station in Avon.
Avon voters will receive a pair of public safety facility-related ballots, one from the district and one from the town.
Ballots must be returned by May 3.
AVON — Police, fire, an emergency-care facility and freeway access, all in one location. It’s a dream shared by Police Chief Bob Ticer and Eagle River Fire Protection District Chief Karl Bauer. For the past few months the two men have been asking voters in town and the district to make their dream a reality with a joint public safety facility at the intersection of Buck Creek, Swift Gulch and Nottingham roads, next to the location where an emergency-care facility is currently being constructed.
Ballots asking for the joint public safety facility went out on Friday and are due by May 3.
Bauer’s ask — $25 million to fund the Avon station and another in Edwards, paid for by a property tax increase on homes in the district — is a lot different than Ticer’s ask, which is $6.5 million to come from certificate of participation bonds that don’t increase taxes. However, both agree their goals are intertwined and of equal importance. The men say both departments are facing similar situations in which the money required to make their current facilities function at a high level would be better spent on new facilities, especially with the growth expected to hit the area over the next couple of decades.
“Maintaining old and antique fire stations, that’s not only an operational drain, it’s a financial drain,” Bauer said. “We’re continuing to pay to upkeep buildings that are old and dilapidated. That does not allow us to plan for future growth.”
The tight spaces in Avon Police Department aren’t up to American Disabilities Act standards, and have had to serve various purposes throughout the years.
“We’ve had to transform a beat-up holding cell into an evidence room … a garage had to be converted to bulk storage … the building’s elevator doesn’t come down to the Police Department’s floor,” Ticer said.
Other parts of the department are unsafe, he added.
“The ladies that are doing (vehicle identification number) inspections, they’re really dodging traffic back and forth throughout the day,” he said.
‘A COUPLE of GLARING PROBLEMS’
The Avon Fire Station, located across from Town Hall on Benchmark Road, is the busiest station in the Eagle River Fire Protection District — which runs from the top of Tennessee Pass to Wolcott. It’s hampered by “a couple of glaring problems,” Bauer says, one being that it was never designed to be a fire station to begin with, so the bays that house the fire engines are smaller than ideal.
“It was part of the old Avon water treatment facility and it has an old water tank underneath the bay, so it can’t take the weight of a larger apparatus like a ladder truck,” he said. That truck now must be parked at the Cordillera station, a 20-minute drive from the heart of Avon under ideal conditions.
Getting the ladder truck out of the district’s Cordillera station and into an area that has a higher probability of requiring a ladder truck is among the district’s top priorities.
“We need to bring the ladder truck down to Avon,” Bauer said.
With that, though, will come the need for a change in staffing.
“We cross-staff the ladder truck, where the same company that operates off the ladder truck also operates off a fire engine,” Bauer said. “What if that engine is out and you also need the ladder truck for something? You wouldn’t be able to get it where it needs to go.”
It’s a problem that would be solved by a new facility. If that facility were to be located at the proposed location, Bauer says it would also solve another problem.
“The Avon Fire Station is located in a place that’s becoming increasingly dangerous to the public and to firefighters,” he said. “We’ve got a preschool, we’ve got hotels, we’ve got a transportation hub, we’ve got a gondola — all of these things are making it unsafe as a primary route of response.”
NO NEW TRAFFIC SIGNALS
The 26,700-square-foot building would improve response times without requiring any new traffic signals to be constructed in the area, according to a traffic impact evaluation that was released by the district and the town of Avon along with a factual summary about the project.
“The findings of the study projected that Nottingham, Buck Creek and Swift Gulch roads will maintain a level of service that does not require new traffic signalization or a roundabout,” officials from the district and the town of Avon wrote in a news release. “Planning for the proposed facility has retained all needed land area to construct traffic signalization and a roundabout, if desired in the future.”