Fire inclusion a boon to safety, roads

Guest column by Debbie Brinkman, mayor of Littleton
Posted 10/8/18

On Nov. 6, Littleton voters have a rare opportunity to ensure their families get the best fire and emergency medical response and create a dedicated revenue stream that will help solve street …

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Fire inclusion a boon to safety, roads

Posted

On Nov. 6, Littleton voters have a rare opportunity to ensure their families get the best fire and emergency medical response and create a dedicated revenue stream that will help solve street maintenance and related traffic issues in the city.

Approval of Ballot Question 7B will allow the city to commit $3.1 million each year to address critically needed street and infrastructure improvements while unifying with internationally-accredited South Metro Fire Rescue.

A yes vote on 7B means the city can catch up on years of deferred maintenance and invest in improvements to major corridors and residential streets. Littleton’s pavement condition is among the lowest rated in the Denver metro area, meaning the condition of our roads is marginal to fair. In surveys, both residents and businesses consistently say that “traffic in general” is the most pressing issue facing Littleton. Without this funding, the city’s streets will continue to degrade to unacceptable levels.

A no vote on 7B will require the city to pay South Metro for fire protection services from the general fund. This will leave no additional funds for street maintenance and infrastructure improvements. Long term, we won’t be able to fully fund the other services citizens expect such as police, public works, senior transportation, and the library and museum. While the city does have reserves, most of it is legally restricted and can only be used for specific purposes (sewer, open space, storm drainage, etc.).

Here’s the background. In May, citizens of Highlands Ranch and the Littleton Fire Protection District voted overwhelmingly to unify with South Metro, ending their long-time partnership with the city starting January 1, 2019.

With the formal dissolution of the fire partnership, LFR will not be equipped to independently provide adequate response times and standard levels of service. A recent incident demonstrates the point. On June 8 of this year, two homes in our South Park neighborhood were destroyed and a third damaged in an explosion and fire. It took 20 units and 35 personnel to fight this blaze and prevent it from spreading to other homes. If Littleton continued with a standalone department we would have only three units and 10 personnel available for an emergency response. Public safety would be severely compromised and that’s a risk I’m not willing to take.

Times have changed. Regional fire agencies provide higher levels of service at lower costs and improve the capacity to respond to large-scale incidents or multiple emergencies. The cost to replicate the service South Metro could provide is way beyond what the city could afford.

With approval of 7B, South Metro’s 9.25 mill levy will be applied to all properties. The city’s mill would be reduced to 2 mills to offset some of the cost. These changes would take effect on January 1, 2020. Property owners could see lower insurance premiums due to South Metro’s higher level of service.

Discussion on fire inclusion has been going on for years. Now is the time to cast the vote that will position Littleton to have better fire services and better roads. Highlands Ranch and the Littleton Fire Protection District voted to unify with South Metro, and now Littleton should too.

Debbie Brinkman is the mayor of Littleton.

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