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Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you for submitting your questions and concerns. Answers will be posted as soon as possible. Please keep in mind that all the Chiefs need time to review the questions, discuss if needed, and respond. Thank you in advance for your patience during this process. 

1) Please address the following rumor: "All part time and volunteer staff will be terminated as of Jan 1 (or other tbd date) with creation of the fire authority which will transition all 3 departments to career staffing only" 

All 3 departments were built on volunteers, so no volunteers will be let go. Volunteers will be able to pull shifts at any station, if they choose to, as long as the station can accommodate volunteers. The January 1st date is a goal – a jumping off point to kick off the Authority, however, there are still many things to work out following that date in terms of budget, payroll, and staffing. With that said, no jobs will be lost. Employees that currently work part time for one department can remain part time. Employees that currently work full time with one department and part time for one of the other two departments, will unfortunately no longer be able to work part time at the other department. They are able to work overtime shifts, when needed. As the Authority moves through the first year and beyond, we would actually like to see our part time employees have the opportunity to transition to full time, as well as possibilities for new hires in the future.

2) If we hire individuals for the new open positions within the next year of the authority, which department pay scale are they going to be following? Does this decrease other opportunities for raises that other departments are working towards? 

This question is under review by the Chiefs, and will also need to be reviewed by the new Authority Board for final clarification as it involves budgetary decision making.

3) Would you still allow for volunteers to serve their communities? 

Similar to today, you can sign up for a shift however placement and location will be based on availability and the overall needs of the District. For example, if you attempt to sign up for a shift in Byers on a particular day and those available spots are already full - you would need to sign up for a different location or select a different day. The earlier you sign up, the better your chance will be to be able to volunteer at the location of your choosing.

4) According to the current plans being discussed, what is the earliest calendar year that Bennett's current staff will see wage increases beyond COL increase should the authority move forward? 

At this time, we can't answer this effectively as this will be at the Fire Authority Board's discretion based on yearly budgets. Income adjustments are based on budget availability which is determined by property tax income increases or decreases. Our vision is that everyone will eventually share continuity across position levels related to pay, but we don't have a definitive timeframe. 

5) What is the current plan for the allocation of the volunteer ranks if the authority moves forward? If there is less career staff allocated to Byers and Strasburg, additional volunteers would be required at those stations to "even out" the bodies per station. Please comment on the plan. 

Please reference question 3. 

6) There seems to be some confusion circulating about how deficiencies of other departments will be handled. It’s hard to understand how the funding will work. Strasburg and Byers have much smaller budgets than Bennett. Bennett brings a lot of money to the table. So you see the concerns would be isn’t the Bennett budget essentially being used to fund the needs of the other two departments? To be clear here I’m trying to clarify if that’s actually a good thing for Bennett if there’s already a lot of money and growth here. It isn’t to be mean to the other departments. Hopefully that makes sense. 

This is an important question that we anticipated getting. It is important to remember that once the Authority is formed, we will all be one agency. It will no longer be Byers Fire serving 790 square miles, Strasburg Fire serving 262 square miles, and Bennett Fire serving 365 square miles. We will be one agency, operating under one budget, that will serve to meet the needs of the entire service area of 1417 square miles and all of our combined staff and volunteers. It is no different than making improvements to our current stations or apparatus that have deficiencies. 

7) I am concerned and want to air a potential concern regarding volunteers and the allocation of their staffing. I have been approached by volunteers concerned about whether or not they will be asked to pull at any one of 5 different stations within the authority, on an inconsistent basis based on who needs staffing in any one of 5 stations on a given day. I personally believe that, would lead to a lot of volunteers resigning due to frustration. I feel it would frustrate them because it would be very difficult for them to work through training programs, clearance processes, rig familiarity, and having consistent mentors for these volunteers. It would also be difficult concerning district familiarity and commute distances. We are going to need these volunteers and I think that we need to think about their development and experience during these changes. 

As discussed in Question 3, volunteers need to sign up for shifts (just like you do today) and while those procedures may change, volunteers can sign up for shifts at the location of their choosing, if there is availability. We recognize there is a training component for volunteers to pull shifts at a different station than they are used to and this is being contemplated as this process moves forward. This will be a consistent process, similar to how things work today for volunteers. All Chiefs have approved the beginning of each departments apparatus clearing process moving forward. 

8) What are some good examples of department costs that each department accrues, that the authority after the merger would then only have to pay once affectively instead of 3 times. 

This is a great question to recognize areas of savings which will potentially allow for funding allocation to other needs. Some items that fall under potential duplicate spending would include legal fees, accounting, dispatch fees, vehicle maintenance, EMS billing, medical supplies, apparatus, administrative programs (scheduling, ESO, Active 911, etc.), training costs, some HR considerations like health benefits (may be eligible for different programs since we will be larger). There are probably more, but we cant forsee everything. During the first year or two, there may be some additional expenses incurred in the interest of uniformity and operational improvements. 

9) There has been some discussion in the notes provided about how issues would be handled related to staff members who may be placed into positions where they do not currently hold the certifications or education that Bennett's officers hold. The rumor is these members would be given some duration of time, like a year, to get the certifications they need. For some, this would be unrealistic because this would require multiple certifications and a school degree. Chief McCawley has made it clear that he will be taking over as Fire Chief for the organization, and education, and certs will absolutely be required for key positions. Some of us have taken this to heart and went into debt to obtain education and have worked hard to get certs. How will the authority accomplish this? For example, there's the potential for a Chief officer to be promoted who would potentially need up to 6 years to get to a master's degree like our chiefs have. All three Bennett Chiefs have constantly preached the importance of getting educated. I think even Chief Conner potentially teaches at a state school now which represents the organization well. People know Bennett staff know their stuff. Like I said, some of us went into big time debt to do this on the trust it would pay off. The cost of living is already hard in Colorado and some of us are trying to buy homes and have a family on top of paying for education. It would be really really hard to accept the lowering of this requirement when we trusted that our hard work would pay off. We've avoided taking better education to other departments for more money and invested ourself here. I know this probably sounds selfish, but please try to understand how that could make some of us feel when we really trust in the Bennett leadership to keep their word. Its not that we dont like the other officers on the other departments, were just on really different levels when it comes to these standards. It would be really devastating to see people promoted to key positions ahead of all the people who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to earn the chance at those jobs and it gets taken away. 

This question is a lot to unpack, but we will do our best to address it to the best of our ability. The Authority will work to establish what will be required in terms of certifications/education to hold specific positions, and employees will have a reasonable amount of time, as determined though this process, to achieve the needed certifications. It should be noted that there are no specific requirements to hold a degree at any of our departments currently. Of course, education is encouraged and highly valued, but it is not presently required. Higher education is incredibly important, but experience is also important. There are a variety of education levels amongst all our staff and Chiefs. As is the case in any industry, not exclusive to fire, there has been an increase on emphasis and value of higher education. As we all move forward and evolve as one large department, the value set forth by the Authority leadership team is that all further education is extremely valuable and desired when making career advancements within the department. For example, if you are entering a promotional process under the Authority, higher education may generate preference points when otherwise similarly experienced and certified - as is the case in ANY industry and job process.

10) I like everyone and hope everything all goes well with the merger, but I am wondering about department budgets and whether or not funding that comes from a given district might end up funding endeavors in another district. I understand that we would all essentially be one district or authority, but as separate entities, we are not bringing the same sort of money to the table. I don't want to come off as anti or against because I understand there are many benefits and some cost savings, but I would like to see what each departments annual budget looks like, as well as mill levy information, for the sake of transparency. 

Please reference question 6.

11) Will there be a Human Resources department to help the needs of a bigger agency group? 

Yes, the current staff will continue to coordinate human resources needs. Current admin staff members do already have a background in human resources. 

12) Will all departments be audited for consistency? 

Yes, this is what the committees are for. The Strasburg audit that was taking place was requested by their Board and was unrelated to the Authority. 

13) Officer level employees from the three agencies have different certifications, experience and promotion culture. An example would be, employee from one department promoted an individual with no process, job posting or competition. Another employee got the certification, put time on the job and tested as per hiring guidelines. These practices are inconsistent. What is the Authority going to do about it to make a fair, unbiased, safe and positive culture moving forward? 

All three departments are coming into this from different places, and everyone comes to this with different levels of certification and experience. The Chiefs are evaluating this thoroughly as we move through this process of becoming ONE organization. Of course, as this process continues standards will be developed and published. 

14) Not a lot of thought is being given to the different levels of certification or education employees have. Generally, the staff is pro-merger and wants to see this happen, but there are significant incompatibilities with how officers/employees are certified right now. People who have put in serious time and effort to gain the required certification and education for their jobs should be provided with an opportunity to advance within the department fairly and without bias. This is one of the reasons we started our union. Rewarding others who have not made this effort in front of those who have violates the trust of the staff. This is an issue that should be reviewed by the chiefs and our union. People on the department have placed a great deal of trust in Bennett Chiefs to take care of us if we make the effort to better ourselves. We are looking to you to uphold the values that you put into place and keep your word. Dismantling our current values to simply make a merger happen undermines everything we have built here for many past years. "East Metro" has a lot of appeal and sounds cool, but if we have to do it at the expense of our values and hard work it means nothing. The effects of losing trust and confidence in the Fire Chief would be devastating to our retention and operations. Based on where the department is at today, we probably should be asking harder questions as to is this really "good" for Bennett based on these effects. 

Please reference prior similar questions as this has been addressed previously. Additionally, we really shouldn't focus on what the current promotion processes are in each department because as we become ONE department, these processes will be streamlined for consistency and will change. It is also important to not focus on any perceived negative aspects and instead focus on the new opportunities for professional growth and development. As a larger department, there may be opportunities available that you do not have today. 

15) Regarding question #13: How will the districts combat the unnecessary promotion of fire district staff into company or chief level officer positions before the consolidation in completed. i.e., trying to slip people in promotions before the consolidation and/or real standards are set. 

All organizations need to ensure the operations of their respective departments for the interim time period, so if there are open positions that need to be filled that may need to occur. The Chiefs are in continual communication as to department status and needs. 

16) Will the fire protection districts hire a third-party management consultant group with expertise in fire service to conduct a comprehensive analysis on the health of the organizations and to make recommendations that would lead to a sustainable financial future? 

This is not a decision for the Chiefs to make, this would need to be a board decision, however, these types of consultants are very expensive and may be prohibitive. 

17) Each fire district: Please list, in order of priority, what you think are the top three most critical issues concerning your fire district (feel free to add more than three) and how you feel they will be addressed during this consolidation. 

As part of the process, all departments are continually reviewing priorities that are needed for each department and for the Authority. All departments have similar needs and priorities which include staffing, equipment (age, cost of replacement, etc), and budgets (money, money, money). The purpose of the committees is to address and review all of these items. 

18) Are the board members from each district actually being kept advised on the concerns being submitted through these feedback forms? I like that the form answers are being posted on web and that is helping with communication to us on shift. It is important however to the department membership that the concerns being raised are actually being provided to the board word for word in our voice. There are a lot of decisions that fall to them and I think the fire chiefs have the responsibility to give them a picture of what's being submitted. They need to carefully consider and give input on the concerns to ensure the merger goes smoothly. There is still a lot of apprehension under the surface from the line staff about people being put into promotions and positions that they aren't technically qualified for based on actual fire service industry expectations today in 2023. There needs to be a coherent message from the chiefs and the boards about how this will be figured out to help these concerns. Sometimes it feels like the previous answers on these concerns aren't really direct or specific enough. 

Overall we are still in the research and information gathering phases to prepare for questions the board might have and have needed information to provide to them; however the Board has access to all of this information. 

19) It has been said the Paramedics will be “ineligible for Promotion or shouldn’t be able to promote” and “EMT/Firefighter will be shift Lieutenants”. Going forward will Paramedic Firefighters be able to promote positions? If a Paramedic can not promote as per policy? Will there be salary adjustments to compensate for an employee performing as a Paramedic unable to further promote? What is the motivation for any future authority employees to become a Paramedic if it stops the potential promotion process? 

We do not have the context for where this question is coming from, however; it is likely that information was misconstrued. This is false and has never been discussed. All agencies have had and/or currently have paramedics that are lieutenants (and captains and assistant chiefs and a fire chief).