PUEBLO — Pueblo voters have approved a one percent sales tax to pay for upgrades to the Pueblo West Fire Department.
Right now, the fire department covers 50 square miles of the Pueblo West Metropolitan area with only two fire stations and limited staff. If approved, Ballot Measure 6A would allow them to build another fire station and include four firefighters per shift which will bring the numbers to eleven responders.
The fire department said it's critical the initiative passes because of the impact it's having on response times.
"It could mean life or death for someone who is having a severe medical emergency or trapped in a fire," said Brian Casterta, Fire Chief for the Pueblo West Fire Department.
The ballot initiative would levy a one percent sales tax that would sunset ten years after the funds are used. The department said it failed last year due to confusion over how the money would be spent, sentiments that continue with those who oppose the ballot question.
"They wanted to make sure that if they approve this, it is going to the fire department and this issue will exclusively be used for the fire department," said Casterta.
It states specifically that the money generated will only be used by the fire department. It won't go into the General Fund or other metropolitan departments.
The community said with the size of Pueblo West, a large portion is underrepresented.
"We have a number of residents who have trouble getting insurance on their homes just because they're so far away from a fire district," said Troy Stevens.
For those who do get insurance, Stevens said the deductibles are high.
Now that the ballot initiative is approved, there will be a Citizens Oversight Committee comprised of Pueblo West residents to ensure the funds are spent as promised. They'll report out annually on what is spent.