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DMFD seeking bond to help fund station repairs, new tankers

10/7/2015

Elizabeth Medora
Staff

NORTH VALLEY – The Daisy Mountain Fire Department is asking voters to approve a bond that will help fund needed station repairs, station security upgrades, and new water tankers. The bond question will be on fire district residents’ Nov. 3 ballot. Daisy Mountain Fire services unincorporated local areas, including New River, Anthem east of the I-17, and Desert Hills.

This is the first time DMFD has asked fire district voters to approve a bond. The bond, which is a loan to the fire district, will provide about $16 million in bond funds to DMFD. If passed, the bond will be about 24 cents per $100 of secondary assessed valuation, or $24 per year on a home assessed at $100,000, per DMFD’s bond information. For a $250,000 home, it would be approximately $5 per month.

Daisy Mountain Fire Deputy Chief Danny Johnson noted that the fire district needs to fund several projects, but the economy’s downturn disrupted the DMFD capital plan, leaving difficulties in funding maintenance and new infrastructure. 

“We had some public meetings like we have every year, and one of the questions that we got from our citizens was what is our long-term capital plan,” Johnson said. “We needed to figure out how we were going to fund these projects over the next 10 years or so.”

Per Arizona law, DMFD has identified uses for bond funds in the ballot proposition and must use the funds for the allocated purposes. The bond can only be used for capital improvements, including equipment, station work, and trucks. Funds cannot be used for employee benefits or salaries. Also per law, fire district employees cannot advocate for the passage of the bond during work time, but they can provide information on the projects the bond will fund. Volunteers will be walking through fire district neighborhoods on upcoming weekends to provide more information on bond funding and projects.

Bond proceeds will fund new construction on the current Desert Hills station grounds. Station #145, which was built about 15 years ago on Desert Hills Drive, has developed serious structural problems due to the heaving and settling of the area’s expansive soil.

“The middle of the station is over two inches lower than the stem wall on the outside,” Johnson described, adding that this has caused plumbing leaks and substantial cracks in the walls. The station’s septic system has separated from the leach field, and the septic system no longer works properly, causing sewer backups every 5-6 months.

“The Fire Board had us do a feasibility study on the health of that building,” Johnson continued. After engineers studied the site and took samples from under the foundation, it was determined that it would be better long-term to replace the building than to try to repair the structural damage. The building is not currently covered under warranty.

“When it was all said and done, it was going to be about as much to fix it as it was going to be to build something new,” Johnson said.

A new station is planned for the same location. A new community room will be added, as well as administration offices. The community room at Station #141 is generally booked, and DMFD is looking to expand the community rooms available so that more residents can use the meeting spaces.

Bond funding will also be used for infrastructure updates on radio towers near Stations #141 and #146.

“Working at 141, I’m very familiar with the lack of communication up there,” said Jon Binsbacher, firefighter/paramedic/engineer at Station #141 in New River. “We have some dead spots up there, so we’re looking to improve the technology up there to take away some of those dead spots.” Binsbacher is volunteering his time as an advocate for the bond because he feels it is vital for the community.

New water tankers are high on the priority list for Daisy Mountain Fire. DMFD reports that larger tankers will hasten response time and improve the chances of a quick stop to a fire. The district plans to add three water tankers that will carry 3,000 gallons each, double the capacity of the trucks DMFD currently owns.

“We can have more water on scene in the initial attack, as well as we don’t have to shuttle water as much,” Johnson. “The need for tankers is incredible.”

The majority of the DMFD district relies on tanker trucks to fight fires; most of the area doesn’t have fire hydrants.

“I’ve witnessed it firsthand, where we’re shuttling water to and from up there,” Binsbacher said. “It could definitely make a big difference on that initial stop on a structure fire or a brush fire.”

The planned building improvements include station remodels that will help block exhaust from the fire trucks. Right now, exhaust is getting pushed into the fire stations, creating a hazard for firefighters and residents who use the community room at stations.

New security measures also need to be funded. Fire department resources need further security. Among other issues, items have gone missing from firefighters’ cars when they are parked at the station, indicating thieves may be taking advantage of firefighters’ absence when they’re out on calls.

If the bond doesn’t pass, Johnson said DMFD will have to reevaluate.

“If things don’t pass, we’re going to have to figure out where we can make cuts,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have to look at what services we’re going to have to put on the shelf for a while, what projects we’re not going to be able to fund, what equipment we can nickel and dime for a few years to keep it together.”

Without bond funding, DMFD will be looking at prioritizing the current needs and planning to complete projects over the next 30 years or cutting projects entirely.

“In order for us to operate safely and efficiently, we need this bond to pass or else it’s going to take us 30 years to do what we need to do,” Binsbacher said.

See further information on the Daisy Mountain Fire Department bond at http://daisymountainfire.org/pages/documents/bonds.pdf and Yes For Daisy Mountain Bond, www.facebook.com/yesdaisymountain?fref=nf.

 

The expected bond projects listed on the DMFD bond information sheet include:
Constructing and renovating department facilities
Technology and radio equipment update
Improvements to buildings for firefighter/public safety
Safety and security of district assets
Increase our level of response
Replace some of the current fleet with larger water tankers to serve our area