Colo. city takes over control of fire department

City officials took control of the La Junta Fire Department from the fire protection district and is giving firefighters the same base pay as police officers

By Bette McFarren
La Junta Tribune-Democrat

LA JUNTA, Colo. — "Our firefighters do a tremendous job," said City Manager Rick Klein at Monday night's city council meeting, just before a vote to take control of the La Junta Fire Department, which had been under the supervision of the La Junta Fire Protection District.

"They deserve anything we can do for them. I was at Loaf 'N Jug when a car was on fire near the gas pump. The two engineers handling the hose immediately doused the gas pump, then the car, averting an explosion and at great risk to their personal safety."

City officials voted to take control of the La Junta Fire Department.
City officials voted to take control of the La Junta Fire Department. (Photo/LJFD)

Klein identified the engineers who had sidestepped disaster with their bravery under pressure as Elijah Morgan and Steve Elwood.

Council approved two ordinances on second reading, both making supplemental appropriations to the general fund for 2018 and 2019. Ordinance No. 1602 provides for the transfer of funds for wages, benefits, group insurance, pension, workers compensation, fire state pension, medicare and wages for the new employees to the city. Those expenditures amount to $460,000, and the revenue source for that money is the La Junta Rural Fire Protection District.

As a result, firefighters will now have the same base pay as police officers and the same benefit coverages. Also, two new engineers have been added to the department.

"I assure you none of the recently embezzled funds came from the City of La Junta," said Attorney Phil Malouff. "With the safeguards in place with the city, this could not have happened in the first place."

Klein, after the meeting, expressed his appreciation to the members of the Rural Fire Protection District Board for stepping up and taking responsibility.

Copyright 2019 La Junta Tribune-Democrat

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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