PARKER, Colo., -- When the fire department is called out, it’s typically a life or death situation.
But, in the South Metro Fire Protection District, leaders said they don’t have all the funding they are entitled to, and a lawsuit filed by the district Tuesday further alleges those funds are being illegally diverted.
“They’re being diverted or siphoned in to use for economic development as opposed to what they were originally intended for, and that’s to provide for the safety, health and welfare of the public,” said South Metro Fire Chief Bob Baker. “Over the next 20 years, that $16 million could pay for 32 fire engines; it could pay for paramedic staffing; it could staff a fire station for more than 10 years. That’s a significant amount of funding that’s being diverted away from public safety.”
The $16 million is a prediction of tax funds built up over the next 25 years from a tax passed by district voters in 2011. Baker believes the Town of Parker is taking money voters passed for fire protection and funneling it toward economic development, instead.
More development also impacts the fire services South Metro is able to offer and pay for, Baker said. The Town of Parker and South Metro Fire have been in negotiations for months with no agreement on the future impact of the booming development on fire services, Baker added.
That’s why he said the fire department was forced to file a lawsuit against the town to get some of that funding back.
“It shouldn’t be a choice,” said Baker. “There should be adequate funding for our public safety, and there should also be economic development, but one shouldn’t come at the expense of the other.”
The Parker Authority for Reinvestment sent Denver7 the following statement Tuesday evening:
On behalf of the Parker Authority for Reinvestment (PAR), we are disappointed and surprised by South Metro Fire Rescue’s actions and inflammatory statements as PAR always has and will continue to operate in compliance with state law.
PAR is not illegally diverting funds from South Metro Fire Rescue. In fact, PAR has no legal obligation to share any increment funds with South Metro and were only in discussions about cooperatively sharing funds as we believe partnerships and collaboration make our community better. PAR was earnestly working to find a solution that would best serve the Parker community.
South Metro is an important partner in making Parker a safe and thriving place to live and we believe that public safety and economic development can successfully work together to keep our community great.