At the midpoint of the year - on July 1 - the Mountain Vista Fire District will become what it calls “fully operational” by adding 33 firefighters to its full time staff.
The district’s longtime contract with Rural/Metro Corp., a private corporation, to provide fire service personnel expires on June 30 and was not renewed at the direction of the district’s board of directors.
“We made this decision to ensure the continued quality of fire and emergency services for the residents of our district,” said Ed Wilkerson, Mountain Vista CEO and fire chief. “This allows for local control over all decisions concerning Mountain Vista Fire District’s services. That includes planning, personnel, finances, equipment and maintenance.”
The district operates out of two stations — it’s main station and administrative center at 1175 W. Magee Rd., and another station at 9310 N. Shannon Rd.
Wilkerson pointed out that the 33 individuals being, all experienced firefighters, have accepted the district’s offers of employment and are currently undergoing background checks and pre-employment physical examinations.
“The 33 new employees include six captain and six engineer positions,” Wilkerson pointed out. “Fifteen of the 33 already are certified emergency paramedics, as are our two new battalion chiefs, Darin Reid and Michael Price.”
Thirty-one of the newly hired firefighters are existing Rural/Metro captains, engineers and firefighters, Wilkerson said. The other two individuals are firefighters at Picture Rocks Fire District and the Arizona Air National Guard Fire Department.
Of all those individuals, about one third of them are 10 to 15-year fire veterans, one third are in the seven to eight-year range, while the other third have a few years experience, Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson noted that on July 1 the district will be “paramedic staffed, 24/7” where district personnel will respond to emergency medical services (EMS) calls along with Rural/Metro’s Southwest Ambulance. Wilkerson added that while Mountain Vista’s contract with Rural/Metro for fire services will be terminated, Southwest Ambulance will continue to operate in the fire district “because it has the certificate of necessity for medical services in this area.”
Wilkerson said he expected that EMS calls will be answered in the district using Mountain Vista’s new Ford F-150 quick response vehicles specially outfitted for such calls.
Mountain Vista Fire District owns two 2010 KME pumpers, a 2011 KME 79-foot AerialCat quint (pumper-ladder combination), a Type 3 wildland engine, a 2013 Midwest Fire tanker carrying 2,000 gallons of water and a 1,000-gallon per minute pump, and the three Ford F150 4-wheel drive quick response units for EMS calls but that also carry some firefighting equipment.
The Mountain Vista tax rate will increase as a result of the district going fully operational, Wilkerson noted. The district has projected a $4.6 million budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, with the 2014-15 budget project at $5.6 million. Wilkerson said he expects the Mountain Vista tax rate to come in at between $1.90 and $2.00 per $100 secondary assessed value.
Comparable tax rates for fire districts are $1.61 for Golder Ranch Fire District, $2.69 for Northwest Fire District and $3.25 for both Picture Rocks and Avra Valley Fire Districts. Wilkerson pointed out that those other tax rates do not include the rate for bonding at the fire districts, which would increase the base tax rate. Mountain Vista has no outstanding bonds, he said, other than on the fire stations, which are paid for our of the annual budget.
In terms of annexation, Wilkerson said Mountain Vista has already completed annexation of the Camino de Manana and Camino de Oeste areas in the northwest part of Pima County at the request of residents in those two areas.
“Our growth philosophy is that first, growth has to be responsible and not negatively impact our existing service area, and second, the people of the particular area have to want to be annexed,” he said. The district’s core values, he added, are to be “responsible, transparent, efficient and provide quality emergency services to our citizens.”