Voters sent a mixed message in the hotly contested election for three seats on the board of the Animas Fire Protection District, one of three funding partners that makes up Durango Fire & Rescue Authority.
Unofficial results show the top two vote-getters out of nine candidates as Matt Leeder and Kathleen Morris, who are opposed to Animas Fire separating from DFRA. The third seat will be filled by incumbent Claude “Bud” Deering Jr., who voted in favor of sending a notice of intent to separate in November 2011.
Incumbent Greg Drover, who voted against separation, did not win re-election, and Jim Barrett, who sided with Drover in a 3-2 vote split in November, recently had to step down because he was term-limited and has to wait to run for re-election. That means the board will have four members – two for separation, Deering and Bill Warren, and two against, Leeder and Morris. The four members must appoint a fifth member to fill Barrett’s seat.
Incumbent Tony Whittle, who voted in favor of the letter of intent in November, also failed to win re-election.
“I do think the public has spoken,” said Leeder, who received a commanding 1,207 votes. “I hope this means we’ll have some backing to try to hold this whole thing together, keep DFRA together and stop Animas from splitting off.”
The three funding partners, the city of Durango, and Animas and Hermosa Cliff fire protection districts, have been in mediation to resolve one of the Animas boards’ biggest complaints, inequitable funding. Residents in the Animas district currently provide about 60 percent of DFRA’s funding.
Deering, who has said he would like to see faster response times in the Animas district as well as some manned fire stations there, would not comment Tuesday on what the election results might mean because he had not been officially notified of his re-election. He said in March he thought the new board might vote to overturn the intent to separate if the board is happy with how the issues are resolved.
“I think the first things on the agenda should be to rescind the letter of intent and get Barrett’s seat filled,” Leeder said. “One good thing about this is that the public has been really educated about stuff they needed to know.”
The new board members will take their seats on May 22.