Hamstrung fire agency eyes contract with Junction
It was just before noon on a Friday when the call blared. A 65-year-old Whitewater woman was in need of medical attention, having an asthma attack.
Racing to the scene with lights and sirens running, the responding ambulance did not come from the Lands End Fire Protection District, which is headquartered about seven miles from the woman’s home.
A Grand Junction Fire Department ambulance instead headed south after Lands Ends requested mutual assistance, unable to muster manpower.
Discussion at the May meeting of the Lands End Fire Protection District’s board of directors suggests outside assistance may be a recurring theme over the coming months for the 750-plus property owners who pay taxes supporting the district.
During the board’s last meeting, May 24, the agency’s fire chief resigned, citing a pending move to Texas.
With no assistant chief or officers, and the board of directors consisting of just two members, the Lands End Fire board directed attorneys to formulate a contract for services with the Grand Junction Fire Department.
Board Chairman Myron Barker on May 24 said the contract will be presented at the board’s next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the fire district’s building, 34980 Pronghorn Drive. The board meets monthly on each fourth Tuesday.
“As a board, we are required to do the best we can to provide services,” Barker said at the May meeting, later adding, “We have absolutely no intention of dissolving this district.”
According to Barker, the oversized, yellow banner hanging on the side of the fire district’s building sums up the agency’s woes:
“Volunteers wanted ... ,” the north-facing sign reads.
Those calls have fallen on deaf ears, Barker said.
“We’ve sent out mailers, we have a retention and recruitment program, and it hasn’t seemed to keep us with enough staff,” Barker said.
The department is staffed with 10 firefighters or emergency responders, down from about 15 a few years ago, Barker said. Volunteers are paid on a per-call basis, he said. In a monthly report to the board May 24, the department’s resigned chief, Daniel Barker, said they had six calls during the prior 30 days.
“Most of our team members can do fire and EMS, but not all of them,” he said.
A shortage of volunteers also is blamed by Myron Barker for the fact the board has operated for months with just two members. The district’s bylaws specify board business must be conducted with a quorum of three members, but another section appears to allow continued operations under emergency circumstances, when decisions are accepted with a simple majority.
Barker on May 24 said they expect to review applications for board vacancies at their next regular meeting.
Since the district was voted into existence in 2002, the Mesa County Treasurer’s Office through April has collected a little more than $580,000 in taxes to support the operations, according to county records.