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Cedar Hills looks at staffing Fire Station

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  • Cedar Hills looks at staffing Fire Station

    Cedar Hills fire station looks at staffing options

    .Cedar Hills pays nearly $315,000 a year for fire and EMT services from the Lone Peak Public Safety District, but since its firehouse was built about five years ago, it has been used for city offices. The issue of the location of the fire station came to the forefront recently because of a fire.

    It came as a surprise to many people when a major house fire broke out in December, just a few blocks from the station, that the firefighters were not able to respond sooner. Although the response time was only six minutes, many Cedar Hills residents wondered why their station hadn't been able to respond.

    Lone Peak Fire Chief Brad Freeman said he has talked to people from Cedar Hills and got the impression that if there aren't firefighters stationed in the city, the city could look for other options for fire protection.

    "If this happens, we would lose their share," he said.

    Each of the three cities in the district pays a portion of the cost of the district based on population for medical responders and on property values for fire coverage. Although Alpine and Cedar Hills are close in population, the property values differ, so Alpine pays a larger percentage of the cost. Highland pays $629,870; Alpine, $440,000; and Cedar Hills, $314,566.

    Of the three cities, only Cedar Hills is without a staffed station. The Alpine and Highland stations have four firefighters on duty at all times, and now the cities are trying to figure out a way to staff the station in Cedar Hills.

    When discussing a report last week on the Lone Peak Fire Department, Highland Councilman Brian Braithwaite told the Highland City Council the people in Cedar Hills should have the same service as Alpine and Highland.

    Highland Councilman Tom Butler said to fully staff the Cedar Hills station could cost anywhere from $230,000 to $450,000 a year and the fire department was currently running a $130,000 deficit.

    "Alpine City Council passed a resolution to wait until July to man the Cedar Hills station," he said.

    Highland city administrator John Park noted the cost would be split between the three cities and so would be more feasible.

    Freeman doesn't want to wait until July, and proposed hiring two part-timers.

    "There are part time people knocking down our door to get a position," he said. "We could have the part-time people work longer hours in our station and save money on benefits and retirement costs by using other part-time people over there. Cedar Hills said it could move its offices into the basement within 24 hours."

    "The brain dies after four to six minutes without oxygen, so having a two-man team over there would help greatly with the medical response time," Freeman said. "OSHA rules will not let anyone go into a structure on fire unless there are four firemen on site. However, two men could do a lot of prep like laying lines until more firemen got there."

    The Highland City Council all agreed to support a plan to staff the Cedar Hills fire station as soon as possible.

    The Lone Peak Fire board will meet on Thursday at 7 a.m. to discuss how and when to staff the Cedar Hills station.
    Front line since 1983 and still going strong

  • #2
    Cedar Hills to staff Fire Station

    Cedar Hills fire station to get staff

    Cedar Hills will soon have staff at its fire station.

    Starting April 1, there will be personnel from the Lone Peak Public Safety District assigned to the station, at the current city offices. The district voted Thursday to accept amendments to its budget to allow for the additional personnel. For the three months until the end of the fiscal year, the cost totals $63,715. That will be shared by the three communities in the district -- Alpine, Highland and Cedar Hills.

    Cedar Hills Mayor Eric Richardson said he was pleased with the decision.

    "I am really happy," he said. "This is good for the overall district. It helps provide that excellent service. When there is an emergency, and lifesaving personnel are needed, minutes are precious."

    "Today's action gets us to that point where we need to be, to have excellent response," he said. "We have been planning for this for a long time. The timing hasn't been right to grow into that." When the Cedar Hills city building was constructed in 2000, it had room for the emergency equipment, but it has not been staffed.

    In December, some members of the public raised questions about the department's response time to a house fire in Cedar Hills. It was not far from the city's fire station, but firefighters had to come from other communities because that station was not staffed. There had even been some talk that Cedar Hills should withdraw from the district unless it could get its station staffed.

    At a public hearing, there were numerous Cedar Hills residents, and some from other communities, who asked for equal protection from the district.

    One was a woman who spoke in sign language and had an interpreter tell her story to the group from the three cities.

    "My husband had a heart attack," she said. "We were lucky we knew CPR in our home." She also had a neighbor offer assistance. "The response time for the fire department to come to my house -- they were the last people to arrive. I am lucky my husband is still alive. If I didn't know CPR or my neighbor didn't, the outcome would have been different. I support having staff here."

    Some of the support came from residents of other cities.

    "I am here to support having a staff here in Cedar Hills," an Alpine resident said. She asked what would happen if the staff were called to an incident in Cedar Hills and were then needed elsewhere at the same time. She said she favored having all three stations staffed.

    Richardson said that great strides had been made, but they come with costs.

    "I think the benefits outweigh the costs," he said. "Many people in Cedar Hills aren't receiving the same service for the cost. Each minute is very important."

    Equality was one of the most-mentioned topics of the meeting.

    "We are not just staffing Cedar Hills," Fire Chief Brad Freeman said. "We are getting two extra people in the district to cover as a whole."

    "My point is, it is a whole district," Freeman said. "It is the way stations were built. Room was made and the plan was made to staff all three stations."

    District chairman Larry Mendenhall agreed.

    "We are in this together," he said. "That is a gratifying thing to hear."

    There were some concerns about the overall costs. One came from Tom Butler, who represents Highland on the board. He called attention to a 4 percent increase in the budget, with a proposed 5.5 percent increase for the coming year. He said it was because of grants.

    "The district opted to take grants a few years ago -- it was free money," he said. "The problem is that the grants run out. All over the country, cities, counties, states and the federal government are having huge deficit problems. Cuts are being made everywhere. Highland, Alpine and Cedar Hills do not live in a bubble. Things that happen elsewhere eventually trickle down here. We are not immune."

    Jim Perry, the representative from Cedar Hills, countered that the plan was in place all along to staff all three fire stations and that the grants were a way to move toward the goal for a short period.

    "We knew full well it would run out some day," he said. He said it saved money to use the grants to hire new personnel and got those people on board to help the staffing. He said it was important to have assistance close to the public when a need arises.

    "If there is any service of government, this is it," he said. "We are just proposing to have some medical staff within our city."

    Alpine Mayor Hunt Willoughby, who serves on the board, agreed the emergency services were essential.

    "There are things I think that a municipality should provide," he said. "They are roads, water, fire and medical, sewer and police." There had been two alternatives presented to provide service in Cedar Hills. One was to go ahead with the plan to hire personnel; the other was to work with part-time employees. Willoughby advocated moving ahead.

    "I think what Brad (Freeman) presented -- whether we do the staff correctly and right now, or backfill, the costs would be the same, but the level of service is less by doing the back-door route."

    In a related matter, the group heard a proposal to create a special service district or other similar entity to oversee the district. That would remove the cities from being the funding source for the district, as each household and business would fund the service through taxes. Under the current arrangement, the cities pay amounts proportionate to their population. The proposal will be addressed at some point in the future
    Front line since 1983 and still going strong


    • #3
      Lone Peak District in Jeopardy

      Lone Peak Public Safety District in jeopardy

      In a move that is sure to have far-reaching consequences, Highland voted on Tuesday night to demand that Cedar Hills and Alpine rescind a tax increase to hire more firefighters.

      The consequences of the vote, which came after 90 minutes of heated argument, have the potential to permanently fracture the Lone Peak Public Safety District, which has provided fire and EMS service to Alpine, Cedar Hills, and Highland for years.

      Last week, officials from the three cities proposed to put more firefighters in Alpine and Cedar Hills, a move which would nearly double the firefighting costs in the three cities which make up the Lone Peak Public Safety District -- Alpine, Cedar Hills, and Highland.

      Now Highland is demanding not only that the other two cities reverse the vote, but that Cedar Hills join the Lone Peak police service too, a move that Cedar Hills has always refused, saying it would cost too much.

      The proposal to hire more firefighters "is an unsustainable increase in difficult economic times for Highland City," wrote Highland Councilman Tom Butler in the resolution approved Tuesday night. Highland will be forced to pay the majority of the cost of the proposal, but will not see any increase in service.

      The population of Alpine and Cedar Hills does not justify more firefighters, and the property tax increase would not benefit Highland, Butler said.

      Firefighters have "performed and delivered an excellent and professional level of service for over 10 years with the staffing levels they have had," he said.

      The cost of firefighting in Highland increased 60 percent already this year, from $400,000 to nearly $650,000, Butler said. The proposed increases passed at the district board meeting on May 4, which were not unanimous, will increase Highland's cost to more than $1,110,000 next year, an increase of more than 70 percent.

      Over the past 10 years, the Fire/EMS budgets in the three member cities have increased over five times the original amount, from $570,000 in 2000 to a proposed $2,947,000 in 2012, while the populations in the three member cities only doubled.

      "Highland and Alpine are taking advantage of economies of scale by sharing Fire/EMS services with Cedar Hills to reduce the cost of Fire/EMS protection; meanwhile, Cedar Hills is not part of the police services portion the district and does not provide benefit to the district as a whole with full district membership," Butler wrote in his resolution.

      The resolution makes several demands. First, that the Lone Peak Public Safety District reconvene and pass a new budget removing the request for more firefighters in Alpine and Cedar Hills.

      Second, the "Highland council insists that a reevaluation of the current budget proposals with further analysis of part-time, intern, on call and volunteer staffing options is fully explored."

      Third, Highland "insists on a discussion and renegotiation" of the district agreement "to discuss alternative methods of funding and participation."

      And finally, Highland is demanding that "Cedar Hills become a full member of the district by entering into an agreement for police services through the district, complete with its benefits and obligations."
      Front line since 1983 and still going strong


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