Saturday, March 17, 2001
Every now and then, our local government leaders appear to forget for whom they work.
The latest spat between the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County is a perfect example.
The tug of war comes down to this: The city has found itself more and more in recent years helping to fight fires outside of its borders. As the largest and best-equipped fire department in the county, Steamboat Springs is relied upon heavily by the other members of the Wildland Fire Council.
And that's just the problem, at least from the city's perspective.
While its resources are impressive compared to the small rural districts, Steamboat's fire-fighting capabilities are not unlimited. Every time it sends a truck and crew outside of the city, that's one less truck and one less crew that are available to respond to a fire emergency in the city.
That's why the city wants another truck and a few more firefighters. But it wants the county to pay for them, and that's a problem.
You see, the sheriff is responsible to make sure the residents of this county are safe, and that includes safe from fires. But he doesn't control the purse strings. The county commissioners do and they, apparently, aren't comfortable with buying a new fire truck and paying for part-time firefighters.
The impasse over the truck and crew led Steamboat Springs to pull out of the Wildland Fire Council in December. If it's still out when fire season comes around, it won't have a legal responsibility to help battle blazes outside of the city.
That's a scary prospect for rural residents and it ought to be an embarrassing one for both the city and county.
We can understand both sides of the argument:
The city can't continue to stretch its fire-fighting resources and put its residents in danger.
The county finds itself with an extremely tight budget and growing infrastructure needs and can't see how it can pay for a new truck and crew.
What we can't understand is why a reasonable solution can't be worked out.
We sure hope it's not stupid pride that is keeping the two from shaking hands on a new deal.
The city used amazing creativity to find money to build the multimillion-dollar Centennial Hall.
The county commissioners just hired a county manager to handle their administrative responsibilities come March 26.
We're pretty sure that if you combined the city's creativity and the county commissioners' extra time, you could come up with a solution to the wildland fire problem. The two sides are more than welcome to meet on middle ground here in the Pilot & Today's community room.
Right now, the fight between the city and county is just annoying. But if it continues into fire season, it could turn tragic.
Both sides should remember that their boss is The People.
And the boss says get to work.