Revisions sought for fire contract

Posted 12/27/10

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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Revisions sought for fire contract


The winds of uncertainty continue to swirl around a fire protection agreement involving Highlands Ranch and nearby communities.

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 outlined.

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.

Relationships strained?

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 three entities.

“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 allocation.

“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 strained.

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 completion.

“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 successful.”

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 positions.”

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 Metro District.

“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 future.”

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 alone.”

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 said.


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