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Commissioners, fire chiefs disagree about rural water fund

Commissioners, fire chiefs disagree about rural water fund

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - An El Paso County Commissioner had choice words about a fee implemented by county fire departments while one fire chief said Wednesday the money collected is critical for fighting fires.

The debate centers around proposed changes to fire codes and the institution of the Rural Water Fund.

"They may not agree with what we've done, but I hope they follow through with that," said El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn.

"I think it's a giant step backwards," said Falcon Fire Department Chief Trent Harwig.

Both Glenn and Harwig want to help homeowners. However, the two are at odds about what's best for new homes.

Falcon Fire Department set up the Rural Water Fund more than four years ago.  The Black Forest Fire Board implemented the fund this year. 

Homes in wooded areas that are above a certain size and don't have access to a water supply, must have a home sprinkler system or a cistern on the property. Harwig said sprinkler systems cost more than $10,000 and cisterns cost $80,000. Harwig said the fire department wanted to give home builders a cost-effective alternative. It implemented the rural water fund as an option for home builders.

"Several people could pay a certain amount into this fund and over a period of time this fund would collect money for us to strategically place rural water cisterns and/or buy water tinders, anything that enhances the rural water system," said Harwig.

Glenn said the rural water fund was wrong and ineffective.

"How does writing a check alleviate that concern? You're writing a check to take away that requirement of either having a sprinkler system or adequate water supply," said Glenn.  "You don't come up with this mechanism to essentially take money from them."

Harwig said Falcon Fire Board has collected enough money through the fund to purchase its first cistern. It plans to install the cistern at Black Forest Reserve.

Harwig said the Falcon Fire Board did not have enough time or information to address the future of the fund at its recent meeting.

Black Forest Fire Board said it will refund people who paid the $5,600 fee.

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