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New interim chief at Fountain Fire

and other news from City Council

 

Last updated 4/19/2022 at 9:10pm

Karin Hill

Tom Joyce, the new interim fire chief in Fountain, chats with city staff members at the April 12 council meeting.

A new interim fire chief was introduced at the April 12 Fountain City Council meeting. Tom Joyce, a 36-year veteran of the firefighting profession, was appointed to lead the department two months after Chief James Maxon's employment was terminated. Battalion Chief Ryan Torres initially served as interim chief until Joyce's arrival.

Joyce started out as a Marine firefighter in 1985. He first came to Colorado in 2002 to work at Fort Carson Fire Department. In 2016 he was promoted to Fire Chief for the Presidio of Monterey in California, where he retired in October 2021.

Chris Heberer, the city's Public Safety director, said he knew Joyce from their time at Fort Carson. Joyce spent time in Fountain through joint trainings and the like during his time at Fort Carson.

"We are very honored to have him back here," he said.

Heberer added that a national search will be conducted to fill the chief slot permanently, a process that could take several months. Joyce indicated he would be applying for that.

Maxon, whose employment ended Feb. 11, appealed the city's decision to terminate. That process is pending as he awaits a hearing. A lawsuit that Maxon filed against some other fire department employees - claiming they made defamatory statements about him, harming his reputation - has been put on hold for now, Maxon said.

Landscaping standards

In other business, the council had a second round of discussions on proposed landscaping standards designed to minimize water use. Again, as after the January meeting, the council requested additional information before proceeding with a decision.

The proposal is a joint effort by the Utilities and Planning departments to minimize water use in new builds. The guidelines would require new home builds to avoid certain plants that need a lot of water, instead providing a list of plants more suitable to the dry and drought-laden conditions here. Also, grass lawns would be limited in size – and, possibly, location. The proposal suggested that lawns be limited to back yards, and that front yard lawns only occupy 20-30 percent of pervious, or permeable, area. The rest should be landscaped with mulch, shrubs, trees and rocks (rocks also limited to 30 percent due to their heat retention).

Other suggestions include grouping plants that have similar water requirements so as not to waste water on ones that don't need it; implementing irrigation controllers to better limit water use; and numerous requirements for commercial landscaping.

Council members said they wanted more information about the cost to install a xeriscape versus a traditional turf lawn.

"We do need some comparison," Council Member Frederick Hinton said. "We need something to look at to make a decision here."

Thompson also suggested that prohibiting lawns in front yards might not be suitable for families who have children wanting to play with other neighbors in the front yards.

Widefield resident Jean Smith said the proposal didn't address the likes and dislikes of future homeowners, be they simple color preferences or more serious concerns like allergies.

"People are allergic to some of these plants that are being listed," she said.

Thompson said she would prefer to see an incentive-type program rather than a "heavy handed" approach.

Utilities Director Dan Blankenship said he was glad to hear the feedback and that staff would continue to work on getting more data and different scenarios into the draft, which he described as a "work in progress." However, he noted that steps like this are important to consider as the city faces limited water resources.

"We're just trying to turn over every stone to balance our situation," he said. "... We're primarily doing it to try and improve our water situation."

Possible ballot measures

The council voted 6-1 (Council Member Gordon Rick dissenting) to hire a professional polling company to conduct surveys of Fountain voters to gauge their interest in and support of two possible ballot measures: one on whether to join the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPRTA), and another to expand the city's Public Safety resources. The council approved a maximum of $20,000 for this effort.

Those voting for it said they needed the experience and expertise of a company to generate truly scientific results, rather than something informal the city attempts to do on its own, before deciding whether to pursue either ballot issue, or neither. Rick said he preferred that the city go out and "pound the pavement" to talk to residents and try to sway them that way. Council Member Richard Applegate said hiring a professional was necessary because the idea of city representatives going door to door would be "weird."

"I think it's money worthwhile to spend for the future of Fountain," Hinton said.

Ventana Service Plan

The council made no decision on a request by the Ventana Metropolitan District to approve an Amended and Restated Service Plan. Although Kevin Walker, representative for the district managers, said Ventana was not proposing to increase taxes for residents from last year to this year, some speakers at the hearing were concerned that residents were not having enough input into these decisions. It was noted that residents are able to run for vacancies on the district board, and some are doing so now in an upcoming election.

Karin Hill

Fountain's new interim fire chief, Tom Joyce, addresses the City Council and members of the audience on April 12.

One of those resident candidates, Eric Farrar, said there many amenities promised in the original 2006 service plan that have "fallen through." He suggested that they were advertising amenities for Ventana South that are not in the service plan.

Walker said one of the primary goals of the new plan is to replace some of the district's bonds with lower-interest debt to save money over time.

"That will save the district millions of dollars over the life of those bonds," he said.

However, no council members made a motion, so the resolution failed for lack of a motion – in essence denying the request, and leaving the applicant with no feedback.

"I'm sure Mr. Walker is familiar with how to do all that kind of stuff," Mayor Sharon Thompson said.

"Nope, never faced this one before," Walker responded as he walked away from the podium.

 

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