County approves contract to replace Rockville-Springdale firefighters and EMTs

In this file photo, Rockville-Springdale Fire Protection District responds to a crash, Rockville, Utah, July 7, 2017 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Dozens of firefighters and paramedics based in the Zion corridor will soon be out of the job after the Washington County Commission voted to replace them with personnel from another agency.

During a recent Board of Commissioners meeting, the commission approved a contract to replace the Rockville-Springdale Fire Protection District’s current staff with contracted employees from the Hurricane Valley Fire Special Services District.

In this file photo, Washington County Commissioners Zachary Renstrom, Victor Iverson and Dean Cox attend a Board of Commissioners meeting, St. George, Utah, Dec. 5, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The move by the commission comes after the Rockville-Springdale Fire District board proposed a budget that would have levied a property tax increase on Rockville and Springdale residents.

“I as a commissioner am not going to vote to just let them raise taxes when there’s a better, more viable alternative available,” Washington County Commissioner Dean Cox said in a previous interview with St. George News. “We wanted to find out if there’s an effective alternative.”

Read more: County revokes fire district’s budget authority over requested property tax hike

The Rockville-Springdale Fire District board passed a resolution in December 2017 asking commissioners to “assume whatever degree of control of the District necessary for the Commissioners to provide emergency services for the District.”

The commission then worked with the Hurricane Valley Fire District to propose a significantly smaller budget.

The newly adopted Rockville-Springdale Fire Protection District operations proposal calls for two on-site, full-time employees cross-trained in firefighting and EMS from the Hurricane Valley Fire Special Service District in place of the district’s current four on-call emergency responders.

The contract will take effect May 1, at which point all of the approximately two dozen Rockville-Springdale Fire District employees will be dismissed.

Existing employees were offered a chance to apply with Hurricane Valley Fire District, but only a limited number of positions were open to application and no one was guaranteed a job.

Read more: Dozens of firefighters, EMTs could face layoffs as county considers fate of fire district

In this file photo, a Rockville/Springdale Fire District ambulance sits at the ready after a storm, Springdale, Utah, Aug. 10, 2016 | Photo by Mike Cole, St. George News

Going from four on-call employees to just two full-time stationed employees has also been a concern among Springdale and Rockville residents who said they worry what effect a reduced force would have on emergency services availability and response times.

In the approved contract, additional resources from throughout the Hurricane Valley Fire District, which covers a wide area of communities in Washington County, will automatically come to the district’s aid if an incident requires more than the two responders stationed in Springdale.

Automatic aid agreements are also in place with Hildale/Colorado City Fire Department and Zion National Park to assist with incidents in the district.

The contract is in effect until December 31, 2019.

In that time, Rockville-Springdale Fire District board chairman Randy Aton said, the board and the two communities it serves will have the opportunity to find a way to fund the district. If that doesn’t happen, the board will be dissolved and the district will be folded into the Hurricane Valley Fire District.

Email: jwitham@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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