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After months of discussion and expert input, a citizen committee formed to look at the current and future needs of the Sedona Fire District has made its recommendation.

During its final meeting on Thursday, May 11, the committee recommended the district move forward with a bond in an amount not to exceed $18 million. The amount is based on the committee’s determination that proposed capital projects are necessary and are considered to be high priorities.

The SFD governing board received the committee’s recommendation and is expected to vote on it during its regular June meeting. If approved, it will be placed on the November ballot to be voted on by those who live within the SFD boundaries.

The board will be discussing the matter at 3:30 p.m. during its Wednesday, May 17, meeting at Station 1. When this process began, Chief Kris Kazian estimated that SFD would need a bond for around $15 million.

To give some perspective, a $15 million bond would equate to an increase of $17 a year per $100,000 of assessed value of a home. For example, the owners of a home valued at $345,000 would pay nearly $60 per year. With an $18 million bond, that home’s annual increase will be $71, Kazian said, or $20 per $100,000 valuation.

“It was very clearly identified that the $15 million could be a little more, could be a little less,” Kazian said to the committee. “I wouldn’t belittle $3 million as just a little bit more. But in the big picture — and the cost of the items we’re talking about — it’s only one or two projects between $15 million to $18 million.”

The committee’s report states that, “The cost of not doing the bond [or the bond not passing] will require the District to fund the capital plan at a minimum of $2.5 million annually and fund the operating budget. It is important to note that in a pay-as-you-go scenario, the District would not be able to fund capital at the needed $2.5 million level for 10 years because the state-mandated mil rate [tax per dollar of assessed value of property] cap would be exceeded in years nine and 10.”

The committee also determined that the majority of the proposed capital projects will have a service life ranging from 18 to 40 years. It believes it makes sense to spread the costs of those projects to all property owners, current and future — referred to as intergenerational equity — all which will benefit from improvements over the next 25 years.

Repayment of bonds will be structured so that items purchased through bond funding will be paid back in shorter terms than the expected life of that asset.

The plan calls for replacing Station 4 in Uptown as well as Station 5 in Oak Creek Canyon. Discussion has begun with Arizona State Parks and the U.S. Forest Service to move Station 5 to Slide Rock. In addition, major improvements and upgrades are proposed for Station 1 in West Sedona and Station 3 in the Village of Oak Creek.

Repairs to Station 1 carries a low estimate of $2.3 million to a high of $2.54 million while Station 3 sees a low of $1.8 million and a high of $2.04 million. The range for Station 4 is $4.45 million to $4.94 million while for Station 5 it’s $2.3 million to $2.6 million. These costs do not include $1 million for a proposed new maintenance facility for Station 1, an upgrade to SFD’s telecommunication towers and equipment or an additional 10 to 15 percent to cover costs such as architectural, engineering and city fees.

In his report, Kazian wrote, “I do support the concept of requesting an $18 million bond to allow for a hybrid approach for funding the fleet, equipment, and telecommunication needs as well as the primary focus of the bond being on stations.

“We have needs in our facilities that are problematic now and without taking the preventative maintenance steps, we will likely see even larger expenses in the future. Taking the necessary steps to address these issues, of which many were brought forward a decade or more ago, is the responsible and forward thinking approach to assuring effective and sustainable SFD emergency services are being solidified.”

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