South Metro Fire Rescue (SMFR) will be providing fire service to the city of Littleton starting January 1, 2019 – regardless of the outcome of the “inclusion” election this November. But one of the things that will be decided in that election is the permanence of the transfer of approximately $10 million in Littleton assets. If the citizens vote for inclusion to SMFR all Littleton’s fire assets permanently transfer to SMFR with no compensation from SMFR.
The $10 million figure is our conservative estimate of the total value in assets. We can only estimate the value because the city has refused to divulge, or in some cases even calculate, the total value of the fire department assets that will be turned over to SMRF.
The figure above is the city’ s valuation of some of the fire department assets as of 2014. Since then the city has built Fire Station 19 at a cost of $2.5 million, and spent another $5 million on capital equipment; some of those costs were split with one or more of the fire partners, and some were borne entirely by the city.
Buying new to give to SMFR
You may wonder why the city would purchase $2.5 million in new fire equipment while it was in the process negotiating a merger with SMFR. The City Council wondered the same thing when it was approving the 2017 budget. Especially since Fire Chief Chris Armstrong was replacing a $1.4 million ladder truck 6 years early (according to the National Fire Protection Association standards) and the truck would potentially be delivered just as the merger was taking place.
The Council went ahead with those capital purchases because Littleton’s Fire Chief Chris Armstrong assured the Council he would “make the city whole” in the event of a merger.
Quoting Chris Armstrong from the 9/20/2016 Council budget meeting
“Knowing that you are making a big investment not knowing where South Metro lies, I think part of my responsibility sitting at the table and talking with South Metro is to represent your interests and that means making sure that you get the money you pay for these apparatus when they purchase your capital assets in the proposal. I wont allow them to put a proposal together that doesn’t pay for these assets to make the City of Littleton whole.”
Chris Armstrong wasn’t just sitting at the table when the proposal was discussed, he was one of the authors who wrote the proposal. But the proposal does not have SMFR purchasing Littleton’s capital equipment, as promised by the Fire Chief. Instead it has Littleton giving that equipment to SMRF, free and clear of all liens and encumbrances. Meaning SMFR gets brand new equipment, purchased while the negotiations were taking place, that Littleton will be paying off for years in the future.
Paying for stations outside the city limits
In addition to City giving South Metro Fire Rescue the City’s fire assets, the City’s contract with SMFR calls for Littleton to pay for environmental assessments on fire stations located outside the city, and for the City to pay the full cost for any environmental cleanup needed at Station 16, even though the City only owns 1/3 of that station.