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Primary Tuesday to cut candidate field

Scott N. Miller

EAGLE COUNTY – It’s cutdown time. After Tuesday’s party primary, the list of candidates for Eagle County Commissioner will be cut from six to three. Republican voters will pick among Michael Bair, Hugo Benson and Tom Edwards. Local Democrats will choose between Sara Fisher and Mike Lederhause.The winners of the party primaries, as well as independent candidate Roger Brown, will face off in the November election.Those candidates will continue to answer a question a week. This week’s question is something of a milestone, since it was sent by a reader. We welcome reader questions on just about any local topic. E-mail questions to smiller@vaildaily.com.This week’s question: After almost a decade of empty promises and failed leadership, why is there still no local fire protection for residents and businesses in Eagle County’s northwest corner (Horse Mountain, State Bridge, Rancho del Rio, Bond, McCoy and Burns) while four old pieces of broken down fire fighting equipment are sitting outside unattended on an empty lot by the Colorado River, and what should be done about it?

A fire district is not under the jurisdiction of the county commissioners. Your fire district, like others in the state, is located in multiple counties. The resources for these fire districts are raised through local fire district taxes, not county funds.The choice is pay higher taxes for fire protection or pay higher home insurance rates, and that decision is up to the voters in your area. The county commissioners can support and cooperate with whichever choice voters make. This is simplifying a very complicated issue, but the leadership to resolve this must begin in the local community.

My understanding of the fire protection issue for the northwest corner of District 3 is that it is contentious at best. I know that a lot of work went into developing a fire department in McCoy by some hardworking locals and that when people take on a project of that magnitude disagreements are bound to occur. If at that point the county could have acted as a mediator with the local volunteers there would now be a fire department. Perhaps now is the time to bring the group back together and complete the task. I can bring the boxing gloves.

As I understand the northwest Eagle County fire protection issue, two groups wanted a fire house in two different locations. One group had $100,000 in funding for the structure, while the other group had none.The group without funding was able to convince the local voters to vote against the funded proposal, so nothing has happened. Meanwhile, northwest Eagle County goes relatively unprotected. In the case of a fire or other emergency help is almost an hour away.As a commissioner I would mediate this issue until a fire house is built and protection is in place. To do less is irresponsible.

I attended a meeting at which the county commissioners committed to contribute $50,000, as requested, to supplement funds and volunteer efforts donated for the Bond-McCoy area toward the construction of a fire station. As an Eagle County commissioner I would work with the northwest area and the fire districts for a solution to this concern. However, I do not care to see it become another divisive issue within Eagle County. A solution will require involving as many as possible in discussion, collaboration and cooperation to produce a result that will give the northwest area their needed fire protection.

The people in the northwest corner of Eagle County had the opportunity to join the Eagle River Fire Protection District in a special election held in November 2005. Crediting personal attacks and a negative campaign, this inclusion effort failed. Had the two questions been approved, the fire district and Eagle County pledged $50,000 each to build a facility and the district agreed to provide equipment and ongoing training. Although the county has minimal influence over fire district boundaries, I would commit to facilitating discussions in hope of finding workable solutions to better protect the interests of these property owners and area residents.

It took thousands of hours from many volunteers and the support of many agencies and citizens to create the functional and respected Bond/McCoy Volunteer Fire Department that provided much-needed service to the public for several years. It took the continuous interference of one person, with a personal agenda, to destroy the department. It will take the support of the entire community and responsible, dedicated volunteers that are willing to serve the community to reestablish a department. It’s just wrong.Vail, Colorado


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