Sun, Dec. 15

Editorial: Montezuma-Rimrock, Camp Verde fire districts could become 'shared services' model for Verde Valley

There is an old saying that necessity is the mother of invention.

And in this era of diminished revenues, the Camp Verde and Montezuma-Rimrock fire districts are rapidly becoming the "shared services" model for the rest of the Verde Valley.

The two districts already share reserve firefighters. Like most of the other fire districts in the Verde Valley, they also have mutual aid agreements.

Now, with Friday's announcement that Camp Verde has hired Terry Keller to become its new fire chief, there also is a chance the two districts now will share the same fire chief. See, Keller is already the chief of the Montezuma-Rimrock Fire District and Camp Verde has expressed interest in contracting chief services to MRFD, a move that would result in taxpayer savings for both.

Such a move has always been a major stumbling block in similar discussions over the years in the Upper Verde Valley. Whether it is a debate over a Cottonwood annexation of Verde Village or Verde Santa Fe, the communities always seem to find a way to stub their toes over the fire department issue, and, who would emerge as "the chief" should the communities take the matrimonial plunge. Similarly, discussions about joint services agreements between the Verde Valley and Clarkdale fire districts and the Cottonwood municipal fire department seemed to hit a dead-end street as soon as they began.

With Camp Verde and Montezuma-Rimrock, however, there is a calm and well-reasoned analysis of modern-day realities.

The board chairmen for both districts point out that the economic downturn during the recession has really stretched budgets in all fire districts across the state. With assessed property values diminishing, so have tax revenues to fund fire services. To aggravated the issue, voters in 2012 approved Proposition 117, which limits the growth of property taxes to only 5 percent each year, meaning it could take years to recover lost capacity.

Time will tell if the two districts actually end up sharing the same fire chief. But what is so encouraging from the onset is the lack of turf-protection mentality between the two districts. No one is throwing out roadblocks. There isn't talk of why it can't be done.

It's a refreshing approach.

A nice model for the rest of the Verde Valley.

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