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With a sea of red-shirted audience members looking on, the Sedona Fire District Governing Board made its recommendations in regard to a proposed bond that’s been discussed for months.

The board voted 3-2 in favor of moving forward with a $17.9 million bond, which will now go to the voters in November. Treasurer Corrie Cooperman and Chairman Ty Montgomery were the dissenting votes. Both said they were in favor of a bond but more in the area of $12.9 million.

Cooperman said her concern with the $17.9 million is that it may be too high of an amount to pass. When this process began, Chief Kris Kazian estimated that they would need a bond for around $15 million.

But as things moved on, it was determined that the amount needed to be increased.

To give some perspective, a $15 million bond would equate to an increase of $17 a year per $100,000 of assessed value of a home. For example, the owners of a home valued at $345,000 would pay nearly $60 more per year. With an $18 million bond, that home’s annual increase will be $71, or $20 per $100,000 valuation, Kazian said.

The bond will not just fall on the shoulders of homeowners — businesses and vacant land owners will also pay their share. The plan calls for replacing Station 4 in Uptown as well as Station 5 in Oak Creek Canyon.

Discussion has begun with Arizona State Parks and the U.S. Forest Service to move Station 5 to Slide Rock. In addition, major improvements and upgrades are proposed for Station 1 in West Sedona and Station 3 in the Village of Oak Creek.

Repairs to Station 1 carry a low estimate of $2.3 million to a high of $2.54 million while Station 3 sees a low of $1.8 million and a high of $2.04 million. The range for Station 4
is $4.45 million to $4.94 million while for Station 5 it’s $2.3 million to $2.6 million.

These costs do not include $1 million for a proposed new maintenance facility for Station 1, an upgrade to SFD’s telecommunication towers and equipment or an additional 10 to 15 percent to cover costs such as architectural, engineering and city fees.

During the meeting, Kazian presented the board with five different bond amounts and what each would cover. They ranged from $9.9 million to the approved $17.9 million. About 40 people turned out for the meeting, many clad in red as a show of solidarity against any new taxes or a bond.

Nineteen people spoke, with all but a handful in opposition. Some of their concerns, reasonings or information included:

  • The SFD board does not have the taxpayer’s best interest in mind.
  • There’s been poor management under the current board and Kazian.
  • Station 6 is underused.
  • The district is overstaffed.
  • The district’s population has remained stagnant while SFD spending continues to increase.
  • Only two board members have been elected since 2010.
  • Repairs or modifications should be made to the stations instead of new ones being built.
  • The board has rubberstamped spending in recent years.
  • “It’s time to get spending under control.”

Board member Tim Ernster, who co-chaired the bond committee, said he was disappointed that many of those who spoke in opposition left the meeting before hearing the facts or before a vote was made. In addition to the above public comments, others shared some that have made their rounds through town via a video or email.

“I have seen what has been circulated and many of the comments are not true,” Kazian said. “Not even a little true and that’s problematic for me. We’re trying to run a fire district here and it’s based upon trust. We can’t trust each other if we don’t talk to each other. I haven’t received calls from any of you and none of you have emailed me except for one of you.”

Some of the claims that were disputed by Kazian during a PowerPoint presentation included:

  • No SFD firefighters live in California.
  • Only 15 percent of firefighters live outside of Yavapai or Coconino counties contrary to the 90 percent being circulated.
  • His salary is less than that of the Phoenix Fire Department’s chief.
  • He does not live in Scottsdale but lives in Sedona with a second home in Phoenix.
  • He is not triple dipping in terms of pension. He is eligible for a pension from Illinois but not until 2020.
  • His administrative assistant does not make six figures.
  • Only five SFD personnel are allowed to take vehicles home and he is the only one allowed by policy to use them for personal use because he is on call 24/7.
  • Staff raises this year will be is 0.3 percent and not 3 percent.
  • Firefighters pay for their own food. Additionally, two incumbent board members ran unopposed for election in 2016.

“I’m passionate about this place and passionate for the truth,” Kazian said. “I’m passionate at what I do. I was passionate when I came here. This was the right place for me five years ago and it is today and it will be tomorrow.

“This bond initiative is not for anybody but you, the community. It’s not for me. It’s not for the staff. It’s for the community. The community always comes first and will always come first.”

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