◆ Mid Valley Fire District Board rejected SVR’s proposed contract.
Another contract has been rejected in the ongoing negotiations for fire protection services for Star Valley Ranch. This time, by the Mid Valley Fire District Board.
The Mid Valley Fire District (MVFD) Board, consisting of Marti Halverson, Kevin Voyles, and Lance Skinner, met on Wednesday, July 13 to discuss the proposed contract from Star Valley Ranch.
After rejecting not one but two contracts in their own meetings, the Town of Star Valley Ranch’s council presented two new contracts to the MVFD board. One detailed the fire services and subsequent payments to MVFD and the other was a lease agreement for the sub-station in SVR. Both contracts were initially voted down by the board, but approved with amendments. The Town of Star Valley Ranch will now vote on whether to accept and sign the amended contracts.
During the meeting, MVFD board member Kevin Voyles gave an overview of the back and forth that has occurred in since Thayne Fire District handed over operations to MVFD. He began with the first contract that SVR council members received.
“We dusted off the current agreement that was in place with Star Valley Ranch. We figured the less change, the better,” Voyles said.
That contract would have grandfathered in the current rate SVR had been paying to the Town of Thayne for fire protection, about $53,587. After this fiscal year, the rate would increase to three mill levies, or about $157,321.06. The three way agreement was rejected by SVR council members, citing inadequate time to evaluate the contract.
The next contract, which was just between MVFD and SVR, went straight to the three mill levy. That was an increase of about $100,000 in cost for the town.
“We decided that the Mid Valley Fire District was assessing residents of the Mid Valley Fire District area at three mills, and we thought there should be equity among all three jurisdictions,” Voyles said in defense of the cost jump.
That second contract was also rejected by the town council. The SVR council members voted to rewrite the contract and presented it for approval at the July 13 MVFD meeting. The fire district board, however, did not like what they saw.
The latest contract suggest the town would pay up to three mills of the money that they receive, not the three mill levy that is assessed. Lincoln County Treasurer Jerry Greenfield, who was in attendance, clarified that there is a “diminimus difference” between what is assessed and what the town receives. MVFD board members took particular issue with this line of the proposed contract.
“We cannot do budgets, both income and expenditures basked on that income, if we don’t know how much we are going to get,” said board member Marti Halverson.
“That’s part of why we went through this whole effort, is because we recognize that the fire department was a fire department that was held together with duct tape and baling twine. And so we’re raising money to make that better,” Voyles said.
The MVFD board unanimously voted down the proposed contract. It was approved with amendments, including specifying the agreement would be for ten years and the town would pay three mills of assessed property valuation plus motor vehicle taxes. Motor vehicle taxes was added to the contract after clarification from County Treasurer Greenfield that they are always a part of mill levies paid to county entities like towns.
MVFD also rejected the pro- posed lease contract for the sub- station in the Town of Star Valley Ranch. One issue was the non-specific language in the contract around the building location. Another, that the Town of Star Valley Ranch reserved the right to store items in the building but could not be held liable for damage to the building or fire engine stored there.
“I think a more balanced agreement needs to be provided before I would be willing to support it,” Voyles said.
An amended lease was later approved, which included a 10-year time period, eliminated the co-use and indemnity clauses, and allowed either party to terminate the contract with cause.
“I know through this whole deal that trust is hard to come by, but there has to be a certain amount of trust both ways. You have to trust us that we are going to provide you with the best possible fire protection that we can,” said Chairman Lance Skinner. “And we have to trust you to say you’re going to pay quarterly what you need to pay without us having to bill you because we dont know what to bill you.”
The Town of Star Valley Ranch council will now vote on the amended contract once they receive it. Until then, fire protection for the town remains in limbo.