Black Forest adjusts budget to compensate for $100,000 investigation

April 17, 2014 Updated: April 17, 2014 at 11:36 pm

The Black Forest Fire/Rescue District held a public meeting Thursday to discuss 2014 budget adjustments needed to compensate for spending more than $100,000 on an internal investigation into its fire chief's handling of the Black Forest fire.

The hefty fee for the investigation, which cleared Fire Chief Bob Harvey of any negligence, was not budgeted for and will now mean the elimination of one of the department's two part-time firefighter positions at Station No. 2, at 16465 Ridge Run Road, which covers the northern portion of Black Forest.

It will also mean the postponement of new equipment purchases and station enhancements, officials said.

Only two residents showed up to the meeting, where district chairman Ed Bracken and treasurer Walter Seelye explained that no one lost their job because the part time position is filled by firefighters from other departments on a rotating basis.

They also assured residents they would not see an tax increase in the near future.

"The reality is we don't get much direct dispatch from that station," Bracken said of Station 2.

"Career staff gives us speed. Volunteers give us depth," Seelye said, adding that the station also benefits from the  mutual aid provided by departments who are part of the North Group.

Volunteer firefighters, whom the district relies upon heavily, will staff the second station.

The district has about 50 volunteer firefighters, and about a dozen full-time firefighters, Seeyle said.

He understands that residents are concerned about not getting quality service. But he said the district has worked to expand its capabilities without overspending. They've also remained under budget for the year.

"The concern is valid and we have to assure residents that yes we will take of them," he said. "We are going to do it. We are going to meet their needs. The way we can convince them is by doing our job. And by doing it outstandingly."

The internal investigation was initiated after El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa alleged that Harvey had mishandled the fire.

Station No. 2's second part-time position will move to the Station No. 1 on Teachout Road, which will offer extra manpower during daylight hours when there are usually only three firefighters on shift.

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