SHOW LOW — Local voters turned down Prop 428, the Timber Mesa Fire and Medical District bond initiative. The $18 million dollar bond was to provide greater capacity in the district’s budget.
Navajo County Elections reported 7,418 NO votes (59.10%) versus 4,133 YES votes (40.90%). That’s a little less than a 20% margin voting against the measure.
The funds would have been utilized to construct, equip and furnish new fire stations and training facilities as well as renovating existing fire stations to bring them up to current standards. The district had also planned to retire long-term lease purchase obligations and replace fire apparatus (trucks and equipment) as needed.
This was part of Timber Mesa’s “extensive strategic planning from our administration and recommendations from the citizens of the fire district,” stated the district’s bond information sheet.
“As was stated in the bond presentations, the Fire District is able to continue current operations even without bond funding,” said Timber Mesa Fire and Medical District Chief Bryan Savage. “We will continue to deliver the very best service we are capable of to our customers every day.”
“With that said, we will have to adjust some of our thought processes moving forward,” said Savage. “Suffice to say that we will not be purchasing land and rebuilding station 15 but we will still work to make necessary improvements to the current facility. We will likely not realize a training facility at any point in the near future. Some of our planned apparatus purchases will not happen in the time frame originally anticipated, etc.”
As of Wednesday morning, the fire district had already cancelled the bid process for the new engine and many capital needs will either be delayed or won’t happen.
“The unfortunate consequence of this whole thing is that our tax payers will likely be impacted similarly, as if the bond had passed, but will get far less for their money,” said Savage. “And if or when we are able to afford to make some of the same improvements, the cost for those improvements will be significantly higher than they otherwise would have been. This was not our desire but it is simply true.”
The fire district took measures to educate the voters as to the necessity of the bond and the impacts to public safety while the “No on 428” political action committee campaigned vigorously against the initiative.
But there’s a kink in the hose, if you will.
The political action committee supporting the bond initiative did their own bit of research on the “No on 428” political action committee (PAC 2020-20). They allege that “No on 428” has committed multiple campaign violations. As a result they filed a complaint with Navajo County Elections Department.
They allege that “No on 428” submitted an October pre-election report showing no activity. This means “No on 428” reported no funds raised and no funds expended in October. The district’s political action committee supporting the bond deems this a big red flag.
“During the last month, the ‘No on 428’ committee has plastered the community with signs, sent out at least one mailing, launched a website (https://www.noonprop428.com) with no disclaimer, a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NoOnProp428/) that includes paid boosts,” said PAC Chairman Jim Molesa who filed the claim on behalf of the fire district. “Yet, the committee filed a no activity statement. Clearly there is activity. The community has a right to know how political funds are spent.”
Navajo County Elections Director, Rayleen Richards, confirmed receipt of the written complaint in an October 29 email.
“... I am in receipt of your complaint of the “No on 428” committee PAC 2020-02,” states Richards’ email. “I will be informing the respondent of the complaint and the respondent will be given the opportunity to submit a response.”
Within days of receiving Richards’ notice about the complaint, Enero Kelley responded in writing on behalf of “No on 428” PAC, saying there is a clear explanation for their October report.
“Of course, we have had activity as a campaign, but the Secretary of State’s office requires reporting on the date invoices are paid and the funds are expended from the committee’s account, not the date any activity takes place,” wrote Kelley. “The No on Prop 428 committee has either not been invoiced for earlier activity during the reporting period or any invoice that we have received during this reporting period has not been paid during this reporting period as the invoice has not been due during this reporting period.”
The “No on 428” says no one has sent them a bill, therefore they have no spending to report.
Kelley also said that the next campaign finance report is due between January 1-15, 2020, and is required to show activity between Oct. 18-Dec. 31, 2020.
“All of the No on Prop 428 activity during that period will be reported and submitted to the county as required by law and made public as the county deems appropriate,” wrote Kelley.
In the meantime, Savage said that the district will be evaluating all of their options as they plan for the future without the bond.
“We may have to raise our tax rate to fund the minimum capital needs,” said Savage. “We will be looking at each of our non-tax revenue streams to see where we might be able to increase revenue aside from raising taxes. We will adjust our capital improvement/replacement plan and the timeframes for those projects. And we may have to look at other budget priorities to see how to make it all work.”
“I’m sure that you are as disappointed in the result as I am,” said Savage on Wednesday. “But for all of us, we will endure, we will regroup and develop another plan to move forward. I would ask for your patience as we develop that plan and make some of the difficult decisions that will be necessary.”