By Carol Brzeczek
If you are like me, you have been watching council’s discussion to send our fire dispatch to South Metro Fire and combine our entire fire department with South Metro, two separate actions. We have been down this road before, but the idea was nipped in the bud fairly early once citizens voiced strong opposition. The difference this time is that the citizens have not been asked, at least not yet.
Perhaps some background is needed. The City of Littleton has its own fire department but partners with Highlands Ranch Metro District (HRMD) and Littleton Fire Protection District (LFPD). The City charges the two partners for their pro rata share of the total cost, based on a formula that considers the number of calls for service in their areas and each area’s property values. Property values because the two districts receive their funding from a mill levy. Littleton pays for fire services from the General Fund, mostly derived from sales tax revenue. If Littleton proceeds with the unification, South Metro would bill Littleton for services provided, based on an agreed upon formula.
Moving fire dispatch and merging our fire department with South Metro appeared to be on a fast track. Fire Chief Chris Armstrong was emphatic that the move be made in 2017. The only information provided to council – at least publicly – were facts and figures compiled by fire department personnel. That changed at the March 21, 2017 council study session when council was informed that the Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM) had been retained to “conduct a review of the fire consolidation proposal.” (The consolidation proposal is different from moving dispatch to South Metro, however CPSM refers to the moving of dispatch in their initial letter to the fire partners.)
Whether this merger or even the transfer of our fire dispatch is something beneficial to Littleton citizens remains an open question. Inadequate work has been done to know the pros and cons of such a dramatic decision; a decision that once made would not be undone. But sanity prevailed. CPSM wrote their first response providing the Littleton Fire Partners four recommendations:
1. Completion of our study be delayed until we receive the proposed unification agreement and can closely review this document.
2. A Consolidation Review Group be established under the coordination of the Littleton City Manager’s office.
3. The Consolidation Review Group should immediately obtain, from the fire chiefs developing the proposal, copies of all materials developed to date, including draft documents, and that these materials be disseminated to all officials of each of Littleton Fire Partner entities.
4. Any meaningful decisions regarding the Littleton Fire Department, such as equipment purchases, internal organization, employment, promotions, etc., be postponed until this matter is fully resolved. This specifically includes the transfer of the Littleton Fire Department fire communications and dispatching.” (From their letter dated 8 April 2017)
It appears the consultants are going to be doing a thorough review of the unification proposal and have the foresight to put the decision to move our dispatch services to South Metro on hold until more information is known.
At the last council meeting it was reported that the consultant has 30 days to respond to the unification proposal. The five elected representatives from the five fire departments impacted by unification were said to be “under-whelmed” with the proposal. A couple of council members asked what problem they were trying to fix, or as one said, it looks like a solution but for what problem. Mayor Beckman assured council and the public that the consultant was asking the hard questions and would be looking at not only the proposal but alternatives.
To read more about CPSM recommendations, see their letter posted on www.littletonviews.com.