SHOW LOW — Timber Mesa Fire and Medical District (TMFMD) has never asked residents of the White Mountains to vote for a bond before. This November will be different because the fire district is placing an $18 million bond question before the voters.
This bond initiative is known as Proposition 428. If approved by voters, it will support “extensive strategic planning from our administration and recommendations from the citizens of the fire district,” states the district in their bond information sheet.
The average additional tax rate needed to fund the requested bond amount of $18,935,000 breaks down to about $0.33 cents per $100 of secondary assessed property valuation. For the average taxpayer this equals $33.00 per year on a home with an assessed value of $100,000.
Based on the value of the average home in the Timber Mesa fire district, the estimated monthly cost to the taxpayer is $3.47 per month, per household.
What is the money for?
Bond funds will be used to develop training facilities, improve firefighter safety and security and renovate fire stations to bring them up to current standards. Bond funding would also go a long way in retiring long-term lease purchase obligations and replacing fire apparatus (trucks and equipment) as needed.
“Feasibility studies on call volume, response times, industry standards and training needs have been a driving force behind many of the projects the bond encompasses,” said the district. “The other priority for the bond is the health and safety of our citizens and our firefighters.”
“There are five key points that we want to share with the voters,” said TMFMD Chief Bryan Savage. “We are the only entity in the state that has a rate cap so a bond of this type provides greater capacity in the district’s budget.”
The first key point revolves around retiring long-term lease obligations from the operating budget to the bond. This would allow the district to better maintain greater capacity to absorb unforeseen costs when they come.
Examples of unforeseen costs could be increases in state retirement or healthcare costs.
“We hope it won’t happen again but a housing crash would also impact our budget,” said Savage. “Those are just some of the major changes that can affect the district as a whole.”
By retiring the long term lease obligations from the operating budget, the tax rate could be reduced by as much as $0.14 cents.
The second key point or objective is to relocate downtown Station 15, located at 60 North 6th Street in Show Low.
“Station 15 has been there a long time and it’s become outdated,” said Savage. “The community room can’t be used because it’s not ADA accessible. The exhaust removal in the station is not what it should be — it’s just not up to code for many reasons. At the minimum, the station needs to be remodeled but relocation would be better. It’s also not in the best location in relation to the where the majority of the call volume comes from.”
There are other logistical and safety reasons why Station 15 should be relocated. The trucks leaving that station have to drive through a school zone, through a residential neighborhood and often must access an uncontrolled intersection onto U.S.60/Deuce of Clubs.
“We need a downtown station located near the nexus of where we receive most of our calls, and ideally, it would be an area on two acres of property,” said Savage.
The third key point supporting the bond is to develop a training facility on fire district property. A third or more of the bond is relative to the training needs said Savage. There are approximately 26,000 hours of required training per year for fire district employees. This is an average of 270 training hours per employee, per year, depending upon their level of certification. The district conducts much of its firefighter training in parking lots or abandoned buildings which is less than ideal.
“The necessity of training is because we are a high risk occupation in a low frequency event model. You have to train a lot and continuously to be prepared,” said Savage.
The fourth key point is remodeling Station 19 in White Mountain Lake. It was originally an auto mechanic’s garage and was never intended to be a fire station. It is an outdated facility that does not have exhaust removal equipment, among other requirements.
It’s not built to house full time staff and doesn’t have any of the safety features required today, he said.
The fifth key point is apparatus replacement for large equipment like fire engines and ladder trucks. “For the next 10 years, our large equipment purchases would be made from the bond funding and not the operational budget,” said Savage.
The amount of money required to repay the bond is described at the worst case scenario. So, the growth estimates for the district are almost zero which are not realistic. They are intentionally that way so that the district doesn’t underestimate the repayment cost.
They will use a conservative estimate for repayment. Therefore they’ve indicated a cost of $3.47 cents per household, per month for the average house in the fire district. In all reality, the repayment cost will likely be less than that, according to the districts writings in the the bond information sheet.
Savage said the district will further demonstrate their efforts to be conservative with spending, while maintaining their obligations to the community and firefighter safety.
“Timber Mesa has outperformed all financial projections since its creation,” states the bond information sheet.
“We are committed to responsible stewardship of bond funds. Our citizens assisted the district in determining what and how much should be asked for. If approved, a bond oversight committee of community members will be appointed by the fire board to ensure the funds are spent as intended,” Savage said on behalf of the district.
TMFMD representatives will be presenting information and answering questions from the public about the bond Saturday, Sept. 19, at 10 a.m. in the White Mountain Lake Airpark Hangar, located at 1900 Bourdon Ranch Road in Show Low.
Savage said that he and fire district employees cannot advocate for, or against, the bond while in their official capacity. They can only inform about the facts of the bond and encourage people to vote.
If you would like such a presentation for your community, organization, business or residential area, please contact TMFMD at 928-537-5100 or email Chief Savage directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The main office is located at 3561 E. Deuce of Clubs in Show Low.