Red Cliff, Minturn now included | VailDaily.com
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Red Cliff, Minturn now included

Geraldine Haldner

According to preliminary election results, supplied by Cathy Lewiston of Robertson & Marchetti, nearly 90 percent of all ballots cast – 241 voters in the two communities – voted in favor for the proposed inclusion. Only 29 voters opposed the proposed 3.8-mill property tax increase to pay for it.With a voter turnout of almost 25 percent, supporters of the inclusion measure said they were stunned and pleased about the decisiveness of the vote.”I was really gratified,” said Randy Milhoan, chairman of the Inclusion Election Issues Committee, which promoted inclusion of the two towns in the Eagle River Fire Protection District. “I think what really convinced a lot of people was that they were talking to firefighters and found out that all the firefighters thought it was the best solution. I think people trusted their opinion.”Alan Lanning, Minturn Town Manager said the “yes” vote was the best of both towns.”Over the last two, three years, we have just been struggling to keep equipment adequate and keep volunteers trained and motivated. We knew we needed to try something different,” he said. “We had two options: contracting for service; or putting the inclusion question before the voters.”Following the departure of Minturn’s last fire chief, Brian Wilson, in October, town officials decided to contract for services with the regional fire protection district. The one-year contract costs the town $230,000. The inclusion, in comparison will cost the average homeowner in Minturn and Red Cliff approximately $105 per year in additional property taxes.”What we get is 24-hour, 7-day-a-week fire protection by trained professionals. We don’t have to worry about equipment, we don’t have to worry about volunteers responding to calls. We don’t have to worry about all those things anymore,” Lanning said.The town of Minturn will still contribute an annual $130,000 for the next five years to the fire protection district to help fund the start-up cost of the inclusion.The additional property tax assessment, according to Charlie Moore, fire chief of the fire protection district, will bring in an estimated $70,000 per year. The fire protection district’s current annual budget is $2.4 million. A total of 80 full-time and part-time firefighters and support staffers work for the district, which provides fire protection for an 80-square-mile area from Wolcott to Dowd Junction.”I think the vote is good news,” Moore said. “We’ll start planning the inclusion within the next couple of weeks and we’ll be ready to go by Jan. 1 of 2003.”Moore said residents of the two towns will be seeing district firefighters updating equipment at the towns’ fire stations.”We’ll be upgrading a lot of stuff in Red Cliff,” he said. “We’ll be actively recruiting people to join the district.”Volunteers of the fire protection district are paid $2,000 during their first year and $1,000 for every year thereafter, up to $7,000 in reimbursement for their commitment.In addition to dependable fire protection, Moore said inclusion in the district will likely result in lower fire insurance premiums for property owners in Red Cliff.Voters leaving the poll at the Minturn Town Hall said the choice was simple.”I think it is something that is needed,” said a 52-year-old Minturn man, who owns property in Red Cliff and voted because “in the long term this is the way to go. It’s a permanent solution for the general safety of the town.”A 30-year-old woman, who is in the process of building a home in Red Cliff, said she likely would not have voted if she would still be renting.”I don’t want my house to burn down, or if it is burning down I want someone to put it out fast and reliably.”The Minturn Volunteer Fire Department, which until this year provided fire protection for the two towns – assisting Red Cliff’s small volunteer department under a mutual aid agreement – has been having an increasingly difficult time responding to day-time calls for help within a reasonable time because most of its volunteers work outside of town.As approved by the voters, the inclusion will add approximately 24 square miles of territory to the fire protection district’s coverage area, a one-mile wide swath of land stretching from Dowd Junction to Tennessee Pass.Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 602 or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com


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