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More than 100 residents showed up to watch what some described as a “three-ring circus” at the Sedona Fire District Governing Board Wednesday, Feb. 25.

A frequently confused and chaotic discussion of the proposed Chapel area fire station eventually resulted in a 4-0-1 vote in favor of moving forward on construction, provided the project’s financing passes muster.

The board directed Assistant Chief Terry Keller to ask SFD’s architect to release building plans to a contractor so the contractor can establish a guaranteed maximum price for the project.

When plans are released, Keller will also take them to the city of Sedona to obtain required permits, which come at a cost.

Estimated costs from the city for building fees, sewer fees and developmental impact fees will run the district $60,000, Keller said, and SFD will

pay a deposit on that this month.

There’s no point in asking the contractor for a guaranteed maximum price and paying for building permits if construction is going to be put on hold, Keller said.

The board also asked for a rundown of financing, including interest rates, before they make an ultimate decision on the proposed station.

Board member Charles Christensen abstained from the vote.

Board member Liza Vernet previously proposed a similar motion to proceed with the station and ask staff to come back with a payment scenario, but she was shot down by Chairman Don Harr and board members Christensen and Bert Berkshire.

According to Business Director Karen Daines, the station is estimated to cost $2.6 to $2.7 million.

“Taxes won’t go up for this station and taxes will go down by 20 percent by 2012,” Daines said.

The district plans to pay for the station with $1.4 million of one-time monies it receives this year, plus $200,000 already in capital reserves for the project. It will finance the second $1 million over 10 years at an annual debt service payment of $130,000.

Although the district is lowering the mil levy rate from 1.65 percent to 1.55 percent for the upcoming fiscal year, Daines said she feels comfortable with the $130,000 annual debt service.

The district has $3 million in a general fund reserve, which will not be touched for station construction, she assured.

The SFD staff’s 15-minute presentation to the board also included SFD response times, which are currently at 12 minutes, 32 seconds for the Chapel area.

When Station No. 3 in the Village of Oak Creek is out on a call, response times for Uptown or West Sedona crews to reach the Village are 17 minutes, 21 seconds.

“For patients experiencing cardiac arrest, medics must arrive within 4 to 6 minutes to make a difference,” Keller said. “Between 6 to 10 minutes, brain cells are dying and at 10 minutes, the brain is dead.”

Many Chapel area residents spoke in favor of a station closer to their homes to ensure faster response times.

The presentation also covered the chronology of the Chapel station project and addressed the concerns of some residents, who told

the board they were blindsided by a bigger, three-bay

station.

“We want to be able to have enough space,” Business Director Karen Daines said prior to the meeting. “You don’t want to go back and retrofit because that’s more costly to the public.

“We’re trying to be good stewards and think long-term about the needs of the public."

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