New fire station a mess

I have spent a lot of time contemplating what made the Durango Fire Protection District pursue the purchase of the 9-R Administration property, and the series of events that has led to that situation. DFPD did not get what it wanted in the past, a location for new facilities. This was apparently decided against by a few people, a select minority. 

Now, the DFPD board and the Fire Chief are mad, disappointed and determined to find a location no matter what, even if residents who all support their mission and work get thrown under the bus. This creates a situation that causes distrust, disappointment and division. I care about this matter in so many ways, and I write this letter to illuminate what I see is at stake and what is to gain.

 I encourage DFPD to apply pressure on the City and pursue its goal without taking the residents as hostages and using them and the downtown they hold dear as bargaining chips. 

Relationships are priceless and delicate, and the relationships between fire, emergency and law enforcement personnel with residents are trustworthy. Everybody must, under all circumstances, strive to keep it that way as we have a common goal: community through safety, civility and health. 

We will only reach well-informed decisions by having adult and inclusive conversations without guilt, blame, shame and ego. I encourage DFPD to slow down the process and assess the unwanted consequences that relocating to the 9-R site automatically expose the DFPD workers and the Durango residents to, things that can be avoided through such a conversation.

I do not know a single person who is against DFPD getting new and optimal facilities; I am willing to bet that all residents want that.

The location, however, is not a great choice, which has become evident per a petition that has gathered more than 1,000 signatures in less than two weeks. The petition, calling for inclusion and due process, was signed or supported by former and current firefighters, EMT personnel, nurses and doctors, carpenters, electricians, teachers, farmers and children – you name it, all walks of life. 

I’m convinced that thousands of citizens will support a move for DFPD to find another more appropriate site without the problems and impacts of the currently proposed site. I believe the public will be there when it is time to firmly support the elected officials who will be tasked with the decision to find you that new location. 

The citizens do not want to be left out of the process – they want to make this happen with decisionmakers and want to feel proud of having been a part of supporting DFPD and its needs. 

Durango Mayor Kim Baxter has made it clear that she is more than willing to talk with DFPD about alternative sites. Now citizens are waiting for DFPD to accept the invitation, one that gives the district a chance to start fresh, include the general public and move forward with integrity with all parties involved.

If DFPD makes the choice to do so, I know many highly esteemed community members who would be more than willing to facilitate and broker any such meetings.

In closing, I feel the need to say that I witnessed a DFPD board member say: “But why are people so against the fire department?” That is not the case. The resistance DFPD is experiencing is one of demand for accountability and mutual respect. Citizens must be able to debate and contest law enforcement and fire/safety entities’ opinions and plans in the public space without fear of repercussions and shame. Otherwise, I do believe that the idea of freedom and democracy crumbles.

– Lars Hansen, Durango