Residents in unincorporated Pima County in Northwest Tucson got a reprieve from Rural/Metro Corp. last week when the company extended its fire protection subscription services for 60 days.
Fire subscription services for certain areas in the Northwest, paid to Rural/Metro by individual property owners who are not part of an organized fire district, were set to expire May 1.
At the same time, Northwest Fire District is attempting to annex the two areas expected to lose coverage by Rural/Metro – Camino de Mañana and Teal Blue Trail – but the annexations have not been concluded yet.
Jeff Piechura, Northwest Fire District Chief, said the district needs 295 property owners in Camino de Mañana to agree to the annexation, but that the petitions only have 117 signatures thus far. The annexation must be filed by January of 2012.
Twelve residents of that area attended a Northwest Fire neighborhood meeting on Saturday, most of whom were in support of the annexation, Piechura noted.
“They were looking for more information to take to their neighbors,” he said. “We also offered our assistance, even to the point of holding meetings in people’s homes, if necessary.”
Piechura pointed out the Camino de Mañana annexation area is large – about five square miles with more then 600 parcels, about 400 of which are improved parcels.
Sabina Sendek, a resident in the Camino de Mañana annexation area, attended the Saturday meeting and said she was relieved that Rural/Metro extended subscription coverage for two months.
“It gives us time to talk with our neighbors and get the word out about the benefits of being annexed into the Northwest Fire District,” Sendek said. “A homeowner simply can’t go without fire protection.”
For the Teal Blue Trail annexation, Piechura said 30 signatures are needed, but the district only has 13. The annexation must be filed by October 2011.
“Two folks came in Saturday from the Teal Blue area and we gave them accurate information about coverage and expenses,” Piechura said. “They were misinformed about the facts, so we gave them written information.”
Piechura added that the district had sent information packets to area residents at least three times.
Northwest also is trying to annex the Tangerine-Moore area in the town of Marana in order to provide seamless fire district coverage to pockets of the town that currently are not within the Northwest district, Piechura said. Twenty-nine signatures are needed and the district currently has 11. The annexation must be filed by February 2012.
“Most of the properties are in the Butterfly Ranch area and many of them are bank owned,” Piechura pointed out. “We have been talking with the banks and think this might be the quickest annexation that we can get done.”
Northwest has an agreement with the town of Marana to protect properties within the fire district inside the town, but Piechura said there are pockets of properties in the town that are not in the fire district, as is the Tangerine-Moore area.
“We offer services to them and if we respond to a property not in the district, we assess a fee for our services,” Piechura said. “When they get a bill from us, it motivates them to get annexed. A lot of these areas are small and adjacent to our fire district.”
Piechura noted that an attempt by residents in Rillito to be annexed by Northwest Fire failed last week because of insufficient signatures. Piechura said he expects Northwest Fire will do a number of parcel annexations in the area, bringing in properties adjacent to existing Northwest Fire District boundaries.
“We’ll try that in the next 60 to 90 days, and any areas left after those annexations would have to be redrawn for another try,” Piechura said.
The Rillito area, which Piechura said was previously covered by Rural/Metro, has not had fire protection for the past year.
La Cholla area
Meanwhile, Golder Ranch Fire District is in the final stages of annexing the La Cholla area in the Northwest, an area that runs from Shannon Road in the west through the La Cholla Airpark section in Oro Valley.
John Sullivan, Golder Ranch’s community services chief, said the La Cholla annexation petitions were to be turned into the fire district board on Monday, which would submit them into the Oro Valley town clerk. The town clerk, Sullivan said, will evaluate the signatures and valuations of the properties on the annexation petition.
Sullivan noted Golder Ranch needed 257 property owners to agree to the annexation, which would be 50 percent plus one of the property owners in the entire annexation area.
Once the town clerk certifies the petition, it is expected to be forwarded to the Pima County Board of Supervisors in time for its May 17 meeting. If the supervisors approve of the annexation, it would be sent back to the Golder Ranch board of directors, Sullivan said, which by statue would have to decide on accepting the area for annexation into the fire district. If the board approves the annexation, it would take effect 30 days thereafter.
Anne Marie Braswell, a Rural/Metro spokeswoman, said the areas being annexed by Golder Ranch and Northwest Fire are part of “a planned transition of coverage that threatens no firefighter jobs and is being done in the best interests of safety.”
Braswell said Rural/Metro contracts with Mountain Vista Fire District for services and the resources used for Mountain Vista are dedicated to that district.
“The other fire districts (Northwest and Golder Ranch) have resources closer to the area than we do, so the transition of services is in the best interests of public safety,” Braswell said.
She noted that the closest resources Rural/Metro has to cover the areas in question come from its Station 80 at Pima Canyon Road and Skyline Drive, which Braswell said was 30 minutes away.
“We originally said coverage (on the Camino de Marana and Teal Blue Trail areas) would end on May 1,” Braswell said “but because the annexations are not done yet, we’ve extended subscription coverage for those residents for 60 days to July 1. We anticipate the annexations will be complete by then.”