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Bayfield Yard Sale Day taking place Saturday
5/28/2013 By: Times staff report
Bayfield Yard Sale day is this Saturday, June 1! The Bayfield Chamber of Commerce still has spaces available in the Bayfield Center parking lot for only $15 to sell your stuff.
You can still sign up for your spot at Wells Liquor near the Conoco on the east end of town until the end of the day Friday.
The yard sale map is in Friday's edition of the Times. This week's lead story is below.
Upper Pine cuts four staff positions
By Carole McWilliams
Times senior staff writer
The Upper Pine Fire District board cut four emergency responder positions in a special meeting last Friday morning to reduce a deficit in this year’s budget.
“This is the 800-pound gorilla,” Chief Bruce Evans told the board. “The news about the 20-percent drop in (assessed) values in Forest Lakes put the squeeze on this.”
He has reported that Forest Lakes is 40 percent of the district’s total assessed valuation. The county assessor sent out property valuation notices in early May.
Cutting four positions will save around $200,000, Evans said. The district operating deficit this year is around $500,000.
One of the four positions is a consolidation, with Roy Vreeland taking on the wildland coordinator position as well as fire captain, Evans said. The other three have job offers. One is going to Arizona. Two others will continue as part-time firefighters along with other local jobs.
“It relieves a lot of stress that they have found another way,” Evans said. The three would like to come back to the district, he said.
“The plan was three now and three later. Doing four might avoid doing the other two,” he said.
With wildfire season coming, the other two might be needed, board member Mack Coker said.
Evans said, “The projection from the Forest Service is the fire season is going to hit like a freight train. … The first round of lightning that comes through will be a game changer.”
An Upper Pine wildland crew already has been called out to a federal land fire in the Hermosa Creek area, Evans reported. Those deployments, including to other states, are a revenue source for the district.
Board member John Beebe noted the sentiment at recent community meetings for the district to sell equipment instead of cutting staff.
Evans said, “As it stands now, all that extra equipment is what makes us money (on non-local fires) without reducing capacity to cover the district.”
Board president Jeff Dyar commented, “The six positions that we agreed to before (to be cut), attrition may take care of some of that, but we should look at other opportunities to place people and stabilize the situation.”
Evans agreed it is preferable to keep those people as part-timers and keep their training levels up. The district is starting the process to apply for a SAFER grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to bring back the people being laid off.
Evans said a FEMA representative told him that, “The key is to be sure you can deploy at least eight people on a fire. That’s what you need to ask for” in grant funding. The money can be used for paramedics too, he said. The grant funds positions for two years, or three years for a new hire who is an Iraq or Afghan war veteran.
“By this current action, we cut the (2013) deficit in half and take the gamble on the other half” that voters will approve a property tax increase in November, Evans said. “We are down to the bone.”
Dyar added, “We’ve cut to the point where we can remain operational, but barely.”
The district will ask for a property tax increase to make up some of the revenue lost to falling assessed valuations, especially on natural gas production and facilities but also on residential properties.
Finance officer Mickey Ramsey said that for the same reason, the district might have to raise the separate mill levy to repay bonds issued in the mid 2000s. Bond issues are written to allow for that tax to increase without voter approval if needed to make payments.
This year’s payment is due in July, Ramsey said. “At the end of 2013, there will be $20,000 on hand. The mill levy for 2014 won’t be adequate. We need to look at the mechanism to increase that,” he said.
“It’s never happened before,” board member Roger Pennington said.
District officials have been negotiating to refinance those bonds at current low interest rates, but that’s been hampered by the district’s other budget problems.
Evans noted that many residents in the western and southern parts of the district don’t realize they are in the Upper Pine District and need to pay attention to these issues.
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