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Montezuma-Rimrock Fire Department and Verde Valley Fire District may merge and they want to know if the Sedona Fire District is interested.
By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers
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Montezuma-Rimrock Fire Department and Verde Valley Fire District may merge and they want to know if the Sedona Fire District is interested.

SFD Fire Chief Matt Shobert asked the Sedona Fire  District Governing Board on Friday, Nov. 17, for permission to evaluate the proposal considering both the positive and negative impacts it would have.

The board voted unanimously for Shobert to simply research the idea and report back to it in six months.

Board Clerk Tom Wells was absent.

Even if Shobert determines the merger is a good idea it wouldn?t happen in the near future.

?I would look very carefully at what could potentially be the downside,? Board Member Charles Christensen said.

Board members seemed reluctant but said they were willing to take an in-depth look at the idea.

?I feel we have a much better service,? Board Member Ralph Graves said, ?but I?m sure willing to look at it.?

This is also a concern of Shobert?s.

He said SFD has a good reputation for the service it provides and a merger could potentially water it down.

Shobert was approached by the Montezuma-Rimrock chief upon direction from his board to find out if SFD would be interested in merging.

?I think it would be very short sighted to slam the door and say, ?Absolutely not,?? Shobert said.

But, he said he will exercise the utmost due diligence when exploring the option.

A particular concern is that the districts have different tax rates.

SFD has the lowest tax rate for a medium to large district in the state of Arizona at $1.75.

Montezuma-Rimrock and VVFD have tax rates of over $2.

Shobert said it wouldn?t be fair to Sedona taxpayers to raise SFD?s rate to meet the others but a level playing field would have to be established.

VVFD Chief Jerry Doerksen also recognizes the tax rate as a challenge.

Montezuma-Rimrock and VVFD are in the planning phases of a merger between their departments.

Doerksen said the two districts have developed a committee to study the merger evaluating the pros and cons for tax payers and personnel.

?If the study goes well and it looks like a good thing to do we?ll present it to the boards,? Doerksen said.

The Clarkdale Fire Department has also expressed interest in joining the merger.

Shobert said in the past mergers have been successful for the district.

SFD is the product of a merger between what was once Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona Red Rock fire districts.

?Here we are 15 to 20 years later and you can?t tell,? Shobert said.

VVFD was also created by a merger.

In 2001 the Verde Rural  Fire Department and Cornville Fire Department merged to create the VVFD.

According to Shobert, there are currently eight different agencies providing the same services in the valley and there have been several conversations on how services could be consolidated.

?Having everybody on the same page would just make so much more sense,? Doerksen said.

A merger, ideally, would allow a more seamless utilization of resources, a larger employee pool and tax base, and more political strength, Shobert said.

Downsides other than the tax rate Shobert pointed out were disparities in the level of training and service, and differences in pay, benefits and staffing.

Shobert assured the board he will look carefully and provide them with as much information and insight as possible.

?Right now,? Shobert said, ?I don?t know if it?s good or bad.?


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