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  • Dylan Anderson

How will Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue need to expand because of Brown Ranch?

Annexation agreement requires YVHA to pay for 75% of new public safety facility at Brown Ranch and 78% of the cost of new fire apparatus.

This story is part a reporting series called "Brown Ranch: Explained." New stories in this series will generally be published on Fridays. To get the latest, subscribe to The Morning Bugle Newsletter. 


The Gist: Brown Ranch will add a third fire station; YVHA will pay for 75% of it.


Annexing Brown Ranch into the city of Steamboat Springs will require the city and fire district to increase the capacity of Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue and accelerate the need for a fire station on the west side of town.


The Brown Ranch will include a combined public safety facility housing Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue and Steamboat Springs Police Department personnel as part of the development, according to the Brown Ranch Annexation Agreement voters will consider in March.


The Yampa Valley Housing Authority will pay for 75% of the cost of that building. The current cost estimate for the building is roughly $21.5 million, meaning YVHA would need to pay just over $16 million in today’s dollars. That is an estimate though; by the time the city is ready to construct the facility in roughly 2030 it will likely cost more.


The housing authority is required to pay for its share of the new facility before it is issued 740 building permits, which is slightly more units than are planned for neighborhood A. YVHA will also dedicate land for the facility that is “mutually agreed upon” between the city and YVHA. The location talked about is near neighborhood A, on the east side of the Brown Ranch with good access to U.S. 40.


Brown Ranch would have a three-person fire team stationed there 24/7 that could respond to pretty much any call. For a medical call, they can hop in an ambulance or for a structure fire they would get in an engine, receiving support on any call from the city’s central station if needed.


Steamboat Springs Fire Chief Chuck Cerasoli estimated the cost of increased operations would be roughly $3.5 million a year. This increased fire response would have a broader impact than just at the Brown Ranch though as the fire district extends both north and west of Brown Ranch. Cerasoli’s estimate allocated about $1.6 million of the additional operational costs for the fire department to Brown Ranch specifically.


The new fire team will require new equipment as well. The annexation agreement estimates new fire apparatus will cost about $3.2 million total. YVHA is allocated 78% of those costs, or roughly $2.5 million based on current estimates.


The city’s share of costs for the new public safety facility and fire apparatus would be split between the city and fire district based on the current funding model. That model allocates two thirds the cost of capital costs to the city and one third to the fire district. In the end, the city itself will pay for about 17% the total cost of the Brown Ranch fire station.


Without Brown Ranch would the city need a third fire station?

A third fire station on the west side of Steamboat Springs was seen as a need in Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue’s long-term plans before Brown Ranch became a reality, and the latest update maintains it as a need. While it was on the long-term plan, there was no timeline for when the station on the west side would be built.


A station to the west of downtown Steamboat Springs will help improve response times to the western and northern portions of the fire district, which extends west to Milner and north on County Road 129 past the Mad Creek Trailhead.


Still, Cerasoli said when fully built out the station will see a majority of its calls come from the Brown Ranch, so 75% of the cost for the new fire station was allocated to YVHA in the annexation agreement.

 

How was it decided that 75% of the cost of a new station was attributable to the Brown Ranch?

Cerasoli explained that the 75% share given to Brown Ranch is based on the number of residents that will eventually live within a 1.5-mile radius of a station.


Currently the department is serving about 2,400 residents within 1.5 miles of the proposed location for the new fire station, an area that Cerasoli referred to as a station’s core service area. Those residents equate to 28% of the estimated number of residents within the radius once the Brown Ranch is fully built out, with the other 72% living at the Brown Ranch.


The other three percent of the cost being attributed to Brown Ranch comes from the space in the new public safety facility that will be used by Steamboat Springs Police. Since the police department had no plans to add an office west of the current Combined Law Enforcement Facility before Brown Ranch, 100% of the cost for this space is being attributed to Brown Ranch. (More on Police in an upcoming story.)


Most of the apparatus are split the same way too with a few exceptions. A higher share (90%) of the cost for a ladder truck is being attributed to Brown Ranch because Cerasoli said the height and multi-family nature of buildings make it necessary for both response and to maintain current insurance ratings. The estimated cost of a ladder truck is $1.3 million.


A lesser share of a new staff vehicle is being attributed to the Brown Ranch (20%), as it would be used to cover the whole district. In the end, 78% of new apparatus costs are attributed to Brown Ranch.


Caption: Exhibit F of the Brown Ranch annexation agreement outlines fire-related capital costs needed for Brown Ranch and how costs will be shared. (Brown Ranch Annexation Agreement/Screenshot)

 

When will the fire station be built?

An attachment to the annexation agreement known at Exhibit F estimates that the new fire station would be completed in 2030, though it may not be needed that soon.


Short-term rental tax funding is tied to a few metrics in the annexation agreement, with one of them being 420 units within six years of the effective date of the annexation ordinance. If annexation is approved, that deadline wouldn’t hit until 2030.


YVHA needs to pay its share for the building before it obtains 740 total building permits, according to the annexation agreement.

 

How big would the new fire station and police facility be?

The annexation agreement calls for an approximately 22,000 square foot facility that would include six fire apparatus bays. That is actually bigger than the new station currently being built in downtown Steamboat. Roughly 2,000 sq/ft of the building would be used by Steamboat Springs Police.

 

How does the annexation agreement address wildfire risk?

The Brown Ranch Annexation Agreement has a section specific to wildfire risk and talks about ways the development will try to minimize that risk. As part of planning for the Brown Ranch, the housing authority conducted a study that came up with five recommendations.


Recommendations include using trail networks to strategically create fire breaks and provide access for emergency vehicles, require homes incorporate design features that reduce wildfire susceptibility and to have plans for how to evacuate if needed.


The Brown Ranch Development Plan also talks about creating a fire-resistant edge between development at Brown Ranch and open space. This would be a buffer on maintained so plants are in small irregular clusters rather than in large masses, allowing for better fire suppression. These edges would be paired with trails that are built to be able to accommodate emergency response vehicles.  


Top Photo Caption: Steamboat's Mountain Fire Station. (City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy)

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