In January, the South Metro Fire Rescue Authority became one fire district merging the former South Metro Fire Rescue Protection District and the Parker Fire Protection District, a union eight years in the making.
The new District will operate at the lower of the two mill levies at the 9.25, reducing the mill levy for more than half of the district by over 4 mills. The District will continue using the South Metro Fire Rescue (SMFR) name dropping the authority and will be governed by one Board of Directors with seven members.
The newly appointed Board of Directors, Hank Eng, Danny Gaddy, David Jackson, Rich Sokol, Ronda Scholting, Laura Simon and Bill Shriver had their first board meeting on Jan. 25, 2015.
While it is rare for a taxing entity to lower the mill levy, South Metro Fire Rescue’s leadership and board of directors were committed to getting operating costs to a level that could be supported at 9.25 without sacrificing service to the community. During the recession, SMFR reduced operating costs by reducing administrative staff, delaying major building projects, and major repairs for a period of time to ready the department for the eventual consolidation.
The recent increase in assessed values has allowed the District to begin restorations projects that were on hold, hire more firefighters, paramedics and staff to meet increasing customer service needs due to development in the area. The Life Safety Bureau has hired new staff to better meet the needs of builders and developers in the district. The Bureau typically turns plans around in five business days as well as schedules next day inspections to support its customers and the local economy. The Life Safety Bureau works with developers and contractors on projects to ensure that projects meet current fire safety requirements so that people are in safe buildings where they live, work, and play.
In the last year, the district has gone through many changes and that continues. Fire Chief Bob Baker took the helm, the department selected a new Operations Chief, a new Deputy Chief, new District Chiefs and are now looking for a new Operations Chief and a Finance Director due to retirements in those positions. Chief Baker took over after Chief Qualman retired. Baker began his career as a firefighter in 1984 and moved through the ranks eventually serving as the Assistant Chief of Operations before being selected as Fire Chief.
Finally, the district has completed its self-evaluation for accreditation. Recently, the Peer Assessment Team did a site visit and will be recommending South Metro Fire Rescue for Accreditation renewal to the Commission on Fire Accreditation International in March. Accreditation enables the District to look at its operations and organization and compare them to industry best practices so that South Metro is always evaluating its service levels and working to improve its service delivery.