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County looks into Thomas Creek/Westside Rural Fire District status

Following recent receipt of correspondence from the Secretary of State’s office, Lake County’s Board of Commissioners has initiated a process to look into the current status of the Thomas Creek/Westside Rural Fire Protection District.

During their Tuesday, May 7, meeting, the commissioners discussed the letter with legal counsel Jim Bailey.

The letter indicated the potential initiation of dissolution procedures for the district due to a failure by the district to file its yearly annual audit reports for three consecutive years, Bailey said.

The correspondence does not reflect any concrete imminence of the district’s dissolution, Bailey noted. It is automatically issued when the district’s aforementioned reports are not received by the state.

Despite the threatening nature of the correspondence, Bailey said it is the first step of the process that the County must engage in order to verify either the district’s continued operations or dissolution, whichever the case may be.

At this stage, the County must appoint three individuals who are residents of the district to begin gathering the district’s records by May 21, for the purpose of identifying assets and debts.  The next deadline is June 20, which is 60 days after the letter’s date, at which time a detailed financial statement must be prepared.

Thirty days following the statement’s preparation, a hearing must be opened addressing the district’s operations.

If it’s determined that the district is ceasing its operations, then all debts would be settled and the district’s operations closed.  If it’s determined that the district is still operational, then debts would be suspended while the necessary reports are filed with the state, Bailey said.

Once the reports are found and filed, the dissolution process will cease, Bailey said.

During their meeting, Commissioner Dan Shoun asked what role of oversight the Commissioners have with local taxing districts.

Bailey indicated that the Commissioners’ necessary involvement in this case is not for oversight purposes, but simply determining the district’s functionality.

Commissioner Brad Winters expressed concerns with the Thomas Creek/Westside Rural Fire Protection District’s own board of directors assuming responsibility for its own paperwork.

Winters also noted that insurance rates on homes in the district are contingent upon coverage by the fire protection district.

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