Fire district

Finding a path forward after a ‘no more’ vote

The Cortez Fire Protection District said it needed money, and the voters said no.

The tally ó 1,075 for, 1,471 against ó was closer than it might have been in this recessionary anti-tax era, and thatís evidence that some residents were willing to pay more to make sure they had fast and effective emergency response. But percentage-wise, the requested increase was a big one. Some volunteer firefighters werenít on board with the idea of a partially paid force. Many people believe that a double response, by both the Southwest Memorial Hospital Ambulance and the fire department rescue squad, to 911 calls, is redundant and overly expensive.

Those are all fair points, and the district tried to address all of them.

Whatís not quite so fair is the suggestion that the general public knows more about the costs of running the fire district than the board does. Taxpayers certainly can exercise their preference for board members who agree with their own views on fiscal responsibility and the scope of the districtís responsibilities. They can do it over and over, every time a board recommends a tax increase.

But they canít make real costs and real needs disappear by filling in ovals on a ballot. They canít make firefighting forces adequate, and firefighters safe, by just saying no. They canít decide, arbitrarily, that a good fire department should cost them $20 or $200 (or any figure) a year and not a penny more, and make that true..

The CFPD board, with its new members, now must figure out which expenditures are essential, which can be pared, and which can be cut altogether. They deserve constituents who will listen to them and seriously consider what they say, even if they say they need more money.