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At last – cities, county sign fire fighting pact

By Rick Sherman

It has been a long time coming, but Carbon County has a new fire protection agreement with the four municipalities in the county. The contract negotiations have been under way for about three years, but the arrangement has been in contention for much longer. At one time, the commission briefly considered establishing a county fire department, but determined it would be far less expensive to contract with the cities for fire protection.
The cities have been providing fire-fighting services to the unincorporated areas of the county all along, and have been compensated for the services, but the arrangement has been lacking a formal agreement.

Agreement terms

As outlined by Deputy Carbon County Attorney Christian Bryner, the agreement establishes that the county will continue to rely on the cities for fire protection. The county will make one payment to the cities which will be distributed according to the cities’ own agreement. He said the new county agreement covers all types of things the fire departments may do or may assist the county with.
Bryner said the agreement recognizes the increased costs that the cities have incurred. It provides that beginning this year, the county will pay the cities approximately $190,000 for fire protection. That’s up from about $160,000 paid out in 2016. The payment will increase by $12,500 a year for the next five years.
The mayors in the county are relieved to have the new fire agreement. East Carbon City Mayor Doug Parsons noted, “We have never had a county contract. It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad to have it. There’s a lot of county property in our area and it should help cover most of the costs we have.”
Helper Mayor Ed Chavez said the negotiations were going on before he became mayor. He said, “There have been offers and counter offers, but they kept putting it off. It’s (the agreement) great for everyone involved, but contract or no contract, we’re going to go out there. Our concern is for the safety of the people. I’m glad we got a contract in place.”
Price Mayor Joe Piccolo said, “A lot of people have been working on it and we’re grateful the came up with it. It’s a very positive first step forward, but not a finished product yet.” Mayor Piccolo said he would like to see the cities and county meet annually on budget concerns to promote a better relationship.”

Why the delay?

Wellington Mayor Joan Powell said she is happy to have an agreement but has also been frustrated. “It goes back before my time,” she noted. “I have been in office going on three years, and I couldn’t understand why a public safety agreement was such a long time coming. Public safety should be number one.”
Commissioner Jae Potter said he had some reservations about length of the contract and escalating costs of service. He said, “The County doesn’t have control of the costs associated with city fire departments. We’re happy with the service they provide, but not so happy with the seven-year contract.”
The commission also approved a separate fire agreement with the town of Scofield. Bryner explained, “The Scofield Fire Department will render any services they’re able to with the trucks they have, and be paid on a per-incident basis pursuant to the State Fire and Forestry.

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