City News
Sedona Fire District Governing Board votes Wednesday, Jan. 31, to buy 1.52 acres of land for $640,000 in the Chapel area to build a new station.
By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers

Sedona Fire District Governing Board votes Wednesday, Jan. 31, to buy 1.52 acres of land for $640,000 in the Chapel area to build a new station.

Christ Lutheran Church, current owners of the property, signed the agreement prior to Monday, Jan. 29.

The church and its congregation feel SFD’s intentions are positive for the area, according to Christ Lutheran’s pastor, the Rev. Jim Schwartz.

Once the board approves and signs the purchase agreement, SFD enters escrow with the church.

“I hope to enter escrow Wednesday or Thursday,” SFD Fire Chief Matt Shobert said.

The property is located between the church and the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, on Hwy. 179.

The agreement between the church and SFD does put stipulations on the district. SFD agreed to the conditions and added a few of its own to be “good neighbors.”

Station design, noise suppression, maintenance of a path across the property, relocation of a utility shed and first right of refusal for the church are among numerous conditions outlined in the contract.

“We are very pleased with their openness to those negotiations,” Schwartz said.

The station design is intended to be small, similar to that of a single-family home with a garage, according to SFD Public Information Officer Gary Johnson.

“The intent of the district is to build a satellite station,” Johnson said.

A satellite station is a smaller station used primarily for housing equipment and crews. There will not be any offices located at the site, according to Johnson.

SFD also agreed in the contract to blend the building into the area’s existing architectural style.

When the station is designed, a Christ Lutheran representative will be involved in the process, as stipulated by the contract.

“When we sit down to design this building, they’ll have a chair at this table,” Shobert said.

SFD also addressed the church’s concerns about noise during Sunday services by agreeing to implement the same policy at the new station as is practiced at existing stations.

Noise policies practiced by the district call for sirens to be used conservatively and not until an emergency vehicle is on the road.

Shobert said a station in the area won’t produce any more noise than is currently produced when SFD engines drive down Hwy. 179 while responding to calls from other stations.

SFD also agreed to maintain the Friendship Path connecting the church and the Jewish center via the property.

Currently, the path cuts through the middle of the land, which may need to be changed. The contract says if the path needs to be moved, it must be done at SFD’s expense.

SFD also agreed to relocate a utility shed owned by the church currently located on the property to be purchased.

Shobert said SFD will eventually construct a station on the land, but if this changes, the church has first right of refusal at the purchase price. This means SFD plans to give Christ Lutheran the first chance to buy back the land  if it decides to sell.

While a station in the Chapel area is now inevitable, Johnson said there is a two-year window SFD is working with.

From the day SFD decides to build to the day a new station is operating will take at least two years, according to Johnson.

Money for construction, equipment and crews to staff the station have to be figured into SFD’s budget.

Shobert said the new station is needed to address changes in the community.

Construction of 11 roundabouts between SFD’s stations in Uptown and the Village of Oak Creek, improved response times and the ability to back up the VOC station are reasons that Shobert cites that SFD needs a Chapel area station.

Shobert estimates each roundabout can potentially add seven to 32 seconds to response time because emergency vehicles are forced to slow down to 10 to 15 miles per hour to maneuver.

So, when the VOC station needs back-up, it could take Uptown station crews nearly five minutes longer to drive the seven miles between the stations.

“Time is what it’s all about,” Johnson said.

Shobert said a station at the mid-point — where the church’s land is located — can address these issues.

“Our sole goal is to improve the level of service,” Shobert said. “We’ve recognized a need and we’re attempting to address it.”


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