City News

Talk of needing to replace a pair of stations within the Sedona Fire District — and improvements to another — have been batted around for more than a decade-and-a-half.

But now, a citizens’ advisory committee has been formed to look at all options of generating funding for these improvements, which includes a general obligation bond. Their first of nearly a dozen meetings was held on Tuesday, March 7, at SFD Station 1 in West Sedona.

The six-member committee consists of Lonnie Lillie, Gary Johnson, Dave Watters, Caryn Maxwell, Wendy Tanzer and Eugene McCarthy. The committee will be chaired by SFD board member Tim Ernster while Betty Johnson, Pat Ojeda and Greg Eberlein will act as staff liaisons.

The committee will work over the next two-and-a-half months to develop a written recommendation to present to the board at its Wednesday, May 17, public meeting.

During its Feb. 15 meeting the board approved spending up to $25,000 from the contingency fund for expenses to determine feasibility and to acquire more accurate cost estimates for capital projects.

Once the board has the committee’s findings, it will make its recommendations as to whether a bond is the best approach at its June meeting. If that’s what’s decided upon, the bond question will appear on the November ballot. If that’s the route taken, Chief Kris Kazian has said the estimated figure needed would be $15 million, which would be paid off over the next 20 years. If passed by the voters it would equate to $22 a year in additional taxes for homeowners per $100,000 valuation on their home.

If the bond route is deemed best, and approved by the public, it would be the first one ever issued by SFD. But this isn’t the first time it’s been discussed. Kazian shared with the committee SFD meeting minutes from 2001 and 2007. In that 2001 meeting, Station 4 [located on Forest Road in Uptown] was described as “currently showing signs of aging, and in its current configuration, is not fully adequate to serve the fire protection needs of the area.”

The minutes go on to state that the station is not tall enough for a ladder truck, despite one being needed in the ever-growing Uptown area. Jump ahead six years to minutes from a 2007 Citizens’ Advisory Committee meeting. At that time, it was estimated that Station 4 was around 40 years of age and a replacement was needed. Station 5, located in Oak Creek Canyon, is partially owned by SFD and the Garland trust. Because of its size, and sewer capacity, no more than two firefighters can be there at any given time.

“The facility is not large enough to accommodate current, much less projected staffing needs in Oak Creek Canyon,” the minutes of 2007 meeting stated. “This location is also too far south. Optimally, it should be centrally located in Oak Creek Canyon.”

Kazian said these issues have not changed and if nothing else, have gotten worse since being discussed in 2001 and 2007.

“It’s been like kicking the can down the road the past 20 years, in my mind,” he said. “We’re now at the point where we need to do something or make the decision not to and live with the consequences.”

The committee meetings are open to the public. In fact, Kazian said he encourages people to come and hear the information about the potential bond first-hand, instead of possibly hearing erroneous information from other sources. Just one person turned out for the first meeting.

“We want people to attend the meetings and ask the tough questions,” he said.

The next meeting will take place on Thursday, March 16, at 9 a.m. at Station 1. The meetings can also be viewed on SFD’s YouTube channel, which can be found on the district’s website.


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