Board candidates to help decide future of fire authority

Ballots have been mailed to active voters in the Animas Fire Protection District, which is holding an election to fill three open seats on its board of directors.

The May 8 election could serve as a referendum on whether the Animas district should further explore withdrawing from Durango Fire & Rescue Authority.

The current board gave notice in November that it intends to withdraw from the consolidated district, which consists of three funding partners – Animas, Hermosa Cliff and the city of Durango.

Animas board members expressed a number of concerns with the fire and rescue authority, including what they perceive as an unfair funding formula and inequitable allocation of resources and services. Some board members said more equipment and personnel should be assigned to the sprawling Animas district.

“We (Animas) have 10 fire stations surrounding Durango,” said Bud Deering, a board member who voted for the withdraw. “Most have some kind of equipment in them, but they’re not manned. We’ve been saying for years, ‘Why can’t we get a couple of our stations manned?’”

If no resolution is reached, the Animas district is prepared to separate by Dec. 31, 2012, Deering said.

All three districts agreed to participate in mediation to try to resolve their differences, but no deals have been struck.

If the Animas district breaks away, it would result in a complicated separation of resources and a higher cost to taxpayers to provide the same level of services, opponents said.

“If each of the funding partners had to start its own separate fire department and run an ambulance service, it would cost significantly more money,” said Durango City Manager Ron LeBlanc.

“The public expects intergovernmental cooperation when it benefits the entire community,” he said.

The League of Women Voters of La Plata County will hold a candidates forum from 6 to 8 p.m. today at the La Plata County Fairgrounds Extension Building.

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