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City council approves fire services unification agreement

Post Date:04/18/2018

Unification will lead to more efficient, higher-quality fire and emergency services, plus  greater investments in street and infrastructure improvements

After a public hearing on Tuesday, April 17, the Littleton City Council approved a pre-unification agreement between Littleton Fire Rescue (LFR) and South Metro Fire Rescue (SMFR). The second reading of the ordinance passed on a 6-1 vote. First reading of the ordinance passed on a 5-1 vote at the April 3 council meeting.

Before the vote, residents addressed council during the public hearing to express both support and concerns related to the unification. Following public comment, council discussion was focused around funding, levels of service, and how roads will be improved from this action. The majority of council members agreed that unification was the best option for the city and its residents.

The next step will be a public hearing conducted by the SMFR board of directors on May 2, and then an election will be held on November 6, 2018 to ask voters to consider including the City of Littleton in the SMFR service area. If voters approve the question, a portion of the current property tax assessed by the city would be reduced by 4.662 mills, and SMFR’s mill levy of 9.25 mills would be applied across the entire city. This would allow Littleton to reallocate an estimated $3.1 million of city funds to critically needed street and infrastructure improvements.

Street maintenance and infrastructure are established community needs. With the $3.1 million, the city plans to catch up on years of deferred maintenance and invest in improvements throughout the city including major corridors and residential streets.

Background on the Unification

Plans for unification began late last year when LFR’s partners, the Littleton Fire Protection District and Highlands Ranch Metro District, announced plans in November of 2017 to join SMFR starting in January of 2019. The announcement sparked two years of negotiation and analysis to determine how to best provide high-quality, financially sustainable fire protection services to Littleton residents.

The formal dissolution of the fire partnership revealed that LFR cannot operate with at least the same level of service enjoyed for the past several decades as a standalone department. Besides being cost prohibitive, LFR is not equipped to independently provide adequate response times or standard levels of service.

Careful consideration of several partnership options shows that unification with SMFR provides the highest level of service for the lowest cost. The new boundaries that formed when the partners joined SMFR created shared borders between the city and SMFR allowing for more efficient service.

“The city council and staff’s number one priority is to ensure the continuation of quality fire and emergency medical services on January 1, 2019 following the end of the partnership.   It is critical to have a seamless transition from Littleton Fire Rescue to South Metro Fire Rescue and the council action allows this to happen,” said Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman.

Other key decision factors that led the city to consider unification with SMFR include:

  • Long-term cost savings compared to existing service.
  • Improved capacity for response to large-scale or multiple emergencies.
  • Additional firefighting staff and equipment housed at Littleton stations.
  • An improved Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating, which may decrease insurance rates.
  • Littleton firefighters will have the opportunity to work for SMFR.
  • SMFR is an internationally accredited fire rescue agency.

For more information on unification, visit www.littletongov.org/lfr-unification.

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