Wed, Jan. 22

Fire district merger an excellent idea

The concept of merging government agencies to provide better service and lessen taxpayer burden is one we talk about a lot here in the Verde Valley ... but that's usually about as far as it goes.

Whether it's school district consolidation or Cottonwood's annexation of Verde Village, the winds of change usually find a way of transforming into a political hurricane around here.

Often, the threat of change itself, bureaucrats protecting their turf and their jobs, or the misguided notion that centralizing and streamlining government services will cost taxpayers more money kills the concept of government agency marriages.

The latest proposed government merger in the Valley involves a consolidation of the Verde Rural and Cornville-Page Springs fire districts. As explained by Verde Rural Chief Don Eberle, " in the best interests of the customers we serve in the Cornville-Page Springs area and all the Verde Rural Fire District, it would work."

That in itself is reason enough to merge — improved customer service.

But there are more reasons why this is a good idea: "The primary reasons were better service to all the communities, cost savings of course to all the communities, less administrative overhead, less equipment purchases and greater purchasing power," Eberle said. "These are the basic tenants of the benefits of merging."

The proposed merger eventually will require the approval of the voters in the two fire districts.

If that happens, Valley fire agencies in the Upper Verde — perhaps the Camp Verde area as well — should take the next step and investigate the prospect of a merger of all area fire and emergency services organizations. The very reasons this is a good idea for Cornville-Page Springs and Verde Rural could be equally applicable to the entire Verde Valley.

Beyond that, who knows? Maybe Valley fire fighting professionals will become the example the rest of the Valley needs to teach us that professional service at the least possible cost to taxpayers is a lot more important that protecting one's turf.

— Dan Engler

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