If it wasn’t clear before, it should be now: Verde Valley Fire District opposes annexation of Verde Santa Fe by the city of Cottonwood.
VVFD Fire Chief Nazih Hazime said annexation would compromise the district’s ability to render aid to neighboring jurisdictions, meaning Cottonwood and Sedona.
By “compromise” he means VVFD probably won’t be able to respond when needed outside the district.
The reason is simple. Annexation could cost the district as much as $400,000 in property tax revenue. A shortfall like that means cuts in staff and/or apparatus are inevitable, Hazime said.
“Of course, we’re going to do everything we can to preserve staff, but how can we respond if we have no apparatus to respond with?” he asked.
Without adequate staff or equipment, VVFD probably won’t be available to help during emergencies in neighboring jurisdictions.
“Rather than take ownership of each other’s jurisdictions, we should try to either merge or create a joint power authority,” Hazime said. “That is a way to share apparatus and personnel and cut costs. It’s also a way to eliminate positions through attrition.”
Such an agreement would be difficult to complete, but worth the effort if all sides can agree on the best way to reduce costs, he said.
Otherwise, annexation is likely to negatively impact fire and EMS services for Bridgeport, the Verde Villages, Cornville, Oak Creek Valley and areas surrounding Cottonwood, Hazime said.
Communities of the Verde Valley are currently receiving services by fire districts or departments that, in the past, have worked together to provide the best service possible to communities in urban and rural areas.
“This keeps costs as low as possible by working together and sharing resources,” Hazime stated in an email.
For their district tax dollars, homeowners receive from VVFD, free of charge, public education on fire prevention, preparedness, CPR training, automated external defibrillators in the Verde Santa Fe clubhouses, and smoke detector testing and battery changing.
Until recently, a plan to build a fire station to provide faster EMS and fire suppression response to the community of Verde Santa Fe, as well as enhance the response to homeowners in the Tissaw Road and Oak Creek Valley areas, was in the works. The annexation petition drive put that project on hold, Hazime said.
“The city of Cottonwood carries the responsibility of making sure an annexation will not create a danger to citizens in all of the impacted areas. A plan is required for the potential loss of firefighters, how that might impact mutual and automatic aid capabilities, and how vital services will be maintained,” he stated.
“With a viable plan that all stakeholders agree upon, positive city growth can happen. A plan to assure jobs and essential services may gain support from the people,” Hazime stated.
Cottonwood Fire Department Fire Chief Mike Casson was unavailable for comment due to the city’s Veterans Day holiday.
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