By John Finefrock
At its meeting on Jan. 14, the Pagosa Fire Protection District (PFPD) Board of Directors approved a new contract for its chief and discussed a $50,000 donation made to the district in memory of Electra Churchill, who passed away in a structure fire on Oct. 11.
PFPD Chief Randy Larson had been negotiating his contract for months and insisted that negotiations be made in the public portions of the PFPD board meetings instead of in private during executive session.
Larson requested that his contract include a stipulation that his health care be covered for about six months after he vacated his post, should he resign, and the PFPD board spent the last few months finding a way to address Larson’s request.
Larson explained in an interview Tuesday that he and the board came to a “compromise” in which the board passed a policy regarding paying out sick leave that now applies to all qualified PFPD employees.
The policy states that any full-time employee who has worked at the department for at least 10 years “will be eligible to receive a lump sum payment for their accrued sick time, not to exceed 240 hours (30 days)” according to PFPD’s policies manual.
Larson’s salary is now $96,305, about $3,000 more than what he earned previously.
PFPD staff noted this is a cost of living increase only and prior to this raise Larson received a performance-based pay increase in January 2019 for the first time since becoming fire chief.
Larson began his post as fire chief in 2016.
The contract does not specify a certain length of time for Larson’s employment, but can be terminated by him or the PFPD board upon 30 days written notice to the other party.
At the same meeting,Larson reported to the board that PFPD received a donation of $50,000 from Churchill’s family.
Larson reported that the donation would be used to buy a new fire prevention vehicle and that, with the family’s permission, PFPD will inscribe it with “In memory of Electra Churchill.”
Fred Phillips, Churchill’s life partner, submitted a statement to The SUN on Tuesday.
“I lost my best friend and the love of my life of 25 years,” Phillips wrote. “I was so proud when I heard my son Cassidy Phillips and [his] wife Carin Phillips had made a substantial donation to the Archuleta Fire Department. I am delighted that the fire department has considered buying a new fire truck and dedicating it to the honor of Electra Churchill. Electra was a special person and Pagosa Springs was absolutely her favorite place in the world. As for me, my recovery has been amazing and I look forward to getting back to Pagosa. I thank each and every one of you for the efforts you made to save Electra and for granting me the opportunity to live my life for her each and every day.”
Fred Phillips was seriously injured in the Oct. 11 fire.
The next PFPD Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 11 at Station 1, located at 191 N. Pagosa Blvd.