North Summit Fire takes over firefighting from Park City Fire
North Summit Fire is once again performing firefighting duties in its own territory. That ends a 10-week period when Park City Fire covered the region, an arrangement that started when North Summit Fire suspended all of its firefighters.
On Wednesday, the chair of the North Summit Fire Administrative Control Board, Roger Armstrong, told the Summit County Council that all North Summit firefighting shifts in May were scheduled to be staffed by the North Summit Fire District.
That might not seem like a noteworthy event, but Park City Fire had been providing fire service across North Summit since early February. Armstrong later confirmed that arrangement had ended.
“Park City Fire (District) is no longer providing that service for North Summit. So North Summit is now operating its fire department as it has in the past, with volunteers,” Armstrong said.
Park City Fire was asked to take over firefighting services after North Summit suspended all of its firefighters amid allegations of dereliction of duty.
Armstrong credited North Summit Fire Chief Ben Nielson for the district's turnaround, saying the chief has worked tirelessly since he was hired last month.
"The district is back up and running," Nielson said.
Nielson added that North Summit now has a roster of about 25 firefighters, about half of whom previously served as volunteers with the district.
Earlier this year, the relationship between the volunteer firefighters, the district and the administrative control board was frayed, and some said it was broken. Tensions ran high at a public meeting in February, with comments that were taken as insults coming from both sides.
In the intervening 10 weeks, North Summit has hired its first full-time chief, ordered more than $200,000 of equipment and boosted pay for its firefighters. All of that, plus the $210,000 paid to Park City Fire, and the district is facing the very real prospect of a tax increase. Those expenses nearly equal the district’s recommended 2022 operating budget of $556,500.
Armstrong said the board asked Nielson to put together an account of how much money is coming into the district, how much it’s going to spend and a plan for the next three to five years. After that, he said the district would likely ask the North Summit community for a tax increase.
“So it's still operating on a very old budget,” Armstrong said of the district. “And I think the condition of the equipment that we saw, and some other things, reflects that. So at some point we're going to have to start having those community discussions about where we're going to go.”
A tax increase would require public input and official action later this year.