The winds of uncertainty continue to swirl around a fire protection agreement involving Highlands Ranch and nearby communities. The Highlands Ranch …
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The winds of uncertainty continue to swirl around a fire
protection agreement involving Highlands Ranch and nearby
The Highlands Ranch Metro District and the Littleton Fire
Protection District’s board of directors have announced they want
to revise their contract with the City of Littleton.
A Dec. 20 notice the two entities sent to the city says the
purpose of the revision is to improve the partnership that has
served their communities well for many years.
What exactly those revisions would be have not yet been
Littleton Deputy City Manager Phil Cortese said city officials
will meet with representatives from both entities, probably some
time in January.
“We will sit down and certainly entertain any revisions to the
contract,” he said.
The notification comes after consideration of several viable
fire and emergency services alternatives, the statement reads.
The Metro District and the fire protection district — which
includes part of Centennial and parts of unincorporated Jefferson
County — received a draft report on fire and emergency services
options from their consultant, Emergency Services Consulting
International, on Oct. 28.
The draft report is not public record, the Metro District says,
and will not be released.
Metro District General Manager Terry Nolan said the report will
be finalized in January, but will not be released while
negotiations, if any, are anticipated, pending or under way. The
study cost the districts $54,644.
The request for proposals, dated Oct. 9, 2009, asks consultants
to submit alternatives to the current arrangement, including
forming a separate fire department.
The October 2009 request for proposals indicates the districts
were not happy with how recommendations from a 2008 Operational
Efficiency Study were carried out.
The study found numerous areas Littleton Fire Rescue needed to
improve upon, including communication between the three entities
and defining the relationship between and responsibilities of the
“To date this has not been accomplished and the three parties
are not currently mutually well served by the contractual
arrangement,” the RFP reads.
The 2008 OEC study said relationships among the entities were
strained at times, particularly around matters of cost
“The three entities talk about a partnership but in fact are and
operate like a relationship between a contract service provider and
customer,” the study said.
But officials are reluctant to say relationships are
Littleton Fire Chief John Mullin said the three entities have
recently been cooperating and communicating better. Mullin says 65
percent of the study’s recommendations are completed or near
“I think I’ve seen more of a partnership recently than I’ve seen
before,” he said. “Its been almost 30 years and it’s been
When asked if relationships were strained, Nolan said the three
entities “continue to enjoy a long-standing cooperative
relationship that provides excellent fire and emergency services to
our constituents for a very reasonable cost.”
The current agreement
Under the intergovernmental agreement between the three
entities, the Metro District and the fire district pay the City of
Littleton for fire protection services.
The fire district owns three stations, Highlands Ranch owns two
stations and Littleton owns two stations. The three entities share
in equal ownership of station 16, at 8119 Blakeland Drive. Each
entity owns all of the equipment at their respective stations.
The districts are able to make recommendations to the city, but
the final fire department budget is determined by Littleton’s city
council. Administration is also handled by the city.
If the Metro District and the fire district decide to break from
the partnership with the city, they would need to give 12 months
notice prior to the first day of January of the year in which the
agreement would be terminated.
Firefighters are employed by the City of Littleton. According to
the Littleton Fire Rescue 2009 Annual Report, the city employs 154
people throughout the department.
“I would hope there would be an opportunity for all firefighters
to stay employed, hopefully by us,” Mullin said.
2011 budget cuts
The city has not been able to adopt certain 2008 OEC
recommendations because of budgetary constraints, Mullin said.
Like other city departments, the fire department was forced to
trim about 5 percent from its 2011 budget, or about $700,000,
according to Mullin.
Cutting two positions — a deputy fire marshal and a cadet — will
save the department about $130,000, Mullin said.
“It certainly does mandate that we reshuffle duties among
staff,” Mullin said. “I don’t belive that the public will receive
any reduction in service because of the elimination of those two
Other department cuts include a 39 percent cut to overtime along
with scaling back travel and training.
Mullin says there is concern among members of the department
over the study commissioned by the fire protection district and the
“There certainly seems to be some uncertainty because of this
thing,” Mullin said. “Until a decision is made, I’m certain that
our firefighters and my staff and myself are concerned about the
Department morale is “hard to gauge” right now and the uncertain
future is an issue, Mullin said.
Mullin said he has not seen the results of the study and has not
been apprised of what it contains.
He said he does not know what it would cost the department if
the partnership were to break up.
There are so many ways this could pan out,” he said. “There are
so many ingredients.”
According to the City of Littleton 2010 Annual Report, fire
protection makes up 33 percent of total proposed expenditures.
“Right now, we enjoy the services of a medium-sized department
for the cost of a small department,” Mullin said. “Economically, I
don’t know if it would be to anyone’s advantage to go it
The boards of the Littleton Fire Protection District and the
Highlands Ranch Metro District will review the draft report over
the next several weeks and communicate their questions and comments
to the consultant before the report is finalized.
“I hope they are able to dissolve the issues and continue this
partnership that has been so long, for the last 30 years,” Mullin
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