Fire districts west of Tucson turn to voters for support

Updated: Oct. 30, 2017 at 4:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Mail-in ballots will decide the fate of three fire districts west of Tucson in the upcoming November 7 election.

Drexel Heights, Avra Valley and Picture Rocks department have different requests for local voters, but all three are asking for taxpayer money to cover the costs outlined by each district.

Avra Valley Fire Chief Brian Delfs explained Monday, Oct. 30 that he may have to cut firefighters or even close a station if his district's proposal doesn't pass. If that happens, Delfs warned that response times could increase, which may lead to increased insurance costs for residents.

The levy limit override would last five years, according to the proposition. Delfs said it would cost the average homeowner in Avra Valley an additional $21 a year.

Click here to see a sample ballot with each district's proposition.

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In Drexel Heights, the proposal is a 20-year plan for up to $8 million in bonds. The district estimates an average homeowner would pay an additional $30 a year.

It would pay for renovations and construction projects, as well as covering the cost of new trucks and equipment.

The department has two engines at the end of their service life, according to Division Chief Dane Crouse. He said new engines would move the current two into reserve status.

They currently scrape the ceiling at Station 401, which is located on Camino Verde north of Ajo Way. Crouse said the station the bond money would pay to level the current station, dedicated in 1990, and replace it with a centralized building.

That building would include a training center that's currently spread out over two temporary structures. It would also have an area dedicated to administration work for the district, as well as move the workout equipment from the truck bay to its own exercise room.

Crouse posed for a group photo when Station 401 was dedicated and he said he looks forward to another one for the new facility. He said the improvements are important to operations around the district, but there won't be a noticeable difference to service if voters disagree.

"Regardless of whether the bond passes or not, the service level is going to stay the same," he said. "We're still going to provide the exact same service, the excellent quality we have right now."

Picture Rocks Fire & Medical District has proposed a budget limit override similar to that of Avra Valley.

As Delfs explained, fire districts are in a tough situation because of state laws that prohibit them from changing their tax rates. He said revenue is down because property values have d ropped, but they've managed to rely on gr ants to keep the district staffed.

The Pima County Republican Party has not taken a stance on these fire district propositions. Chairman David Eppihimer said they are all too local to warrant a countywide response. He said the party leaves it up to the voters in each district to decide.

Ballots should be mailed by Wednesday, Nov. 1 in order to guarantee their received and counted by election day, according to the Pima County Recorder's Office.

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