The Chapel of the Holy Cross has not been forgotten in negotiations to pass National Scenic Area legislation through Congress.

House Bill 4823 omits references to the chapel and its surrounding property that previously existed in the discussion draft.

chapelholycrossIn the discussion draft legislation, the Chapel of the Holy Cross was specifically mentioned in Section 3.

When U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick [D-District 1] sent House Bill 4823 to Congress, however, the language was omitted, but the chapel deal hasn’t been cut from the process. Instead, it was written into its own bill.

Owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, the chapel and its visitor parking lot occupies an 11.07-acre parcel of land currently leased from the U.S. Forest Service just outside city limits in the Chapel area of Sedona.

The chapel could not continue to be leased from the USFS if the Sedona area becomes an NSA, making special consideration of the property necessary.

“Through her conversations with interested stakeholders and community members, Rep. Kirkpatrick found that the unique, specific issues concerning lands around the Chapel of the Holy Cross could be best addressed through separate legislation,” according to Joe Katz, Kirkpatrick’s press secretary.

“Along with the Sedona-Red Rock National Scenic Area Act of 2010 [HR 4823], she also introduced HR 4824 to authorize the conveyance of those lands,” Katz stated.

The initial draft gave the diocese 180 days after the bill’s enactment to purchase the parcel from the Coconino National Forest. The proposed bill gives the diocese up to one year to complete the sale.

If both bills pass a congressional vote, the diocese will pay fair market value to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the U.S. Forest Service.

The Secretary of Agriculture would determine the value of the land with an appraisal under two federal guidelines: the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.

The cost of the land has not yet been determined.

According to House Bill 4824, the funds from the sale must be used by the Secretary of Agriculture in accordance with Public Law 90-171, commonly known as the Sisk Act.

The secretary has to use the money for acquiring land or interests in land from willing sellers within the Sedona-Red Rock National Scenic Area within three years.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix did not return phone calls as of press time.

Text of the bill:

111TH CONGRESS, 2D SESSION

H.R. 4824

To provide for the conveyance of a small parcel of land in the Coconino National Forest, Arizona.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Ms. KIRKPATRICK of Arizona introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on [no date provided].

A BILL

To provide for the conveyance of a small parcel of land in the Coconino National Forest, Arizona.

1 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. CHAPEL OF THE HOLY CROSS LAND SALE, COCONINO NATIONAL FOREST, ARIZONA.

(a) CONVEYANCE REQUIRED.—Not later than one year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Agriculture shall convey, by sale, to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona (in this section referred to as the ‘‘Diocese’’), all right, title, and interest of the United States in and to a parcel of land in the Coconino National Forest, Arizona, consisting of the approximately 11.07 acres and identified as lot 26 in section 30 of Township 17 North, Range 6 East, Gila and Salt River Base and Meridian, as generally depicted on the map entitled "Chapel of the Holy Cross Parcel, Sedona, Arizona" and dated October 2009.

(b) CONSIDERATION.—As consideration for the conveyance of the parcel under subsection (a), the Diocese shall pay to the Secretary an amount equal to the fair market value of the parcel, as determined by the Secretary through an appraisal performed in accordance with—

(1) the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions; and

(2) the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).

(c) USE OF SALE PROCEEDS.—Moneys received by the Secretary from the sale of land under subsection (a) shall be deposited in the fund established by Public Law 90–171 (commonly known as the Sisk Act; U.S.C. 484a) for use by the Secretary for the acquisition of land or interests in land from willing sellers within the Coconino National Forest. To the maximum extent practicable, the Secretary shall utilize such moneys for the authorized purpose within three years of the deposit of the moneys in the Sisk Act fund.

(d) MINOR ERRORS.—The Secretary and the Diocese may make, by mutual agreement, minor boundary adjustments in the parcel directed for sale under subsection (a). If there is a conflict between any map, acreage estimate, or a description of the land under this section, the map shall control unless the Secretary and the Diocese mutually agree otherwise.

“Where oh where has my little dog gone?”

For people who have lost their pet the lyrics are a panicked cry. Their friend, a member of the family, is gone, and they want them back.

Sedona and Verde Valley humane societies have several stray pets in the shelters awaiting owners to retrieve them, if the owner can be found.

humanelost“We have 18 lost animal reports just since the first of February. Seven have been returned to their owners,” Humane Society of Sedona Executive Director B. Skielvig said. “I wish everyone would have their pets chipped.”

Pets become lost for many reasons, such as a dog feeling bored and digging out of his enclosure. Fear is also a factor with fireworks and thunder at the top of the list, Skielvig said.

“They don’t like loud noises and want to get away,” she said. “Other times the owners are out of town and there’s a pet sitter. With no one around, they find a way out.”

Spenser ran off from his owners Feb. 18. Becky and Dick Kruse immediately tried to find him. They first called the humane society. Becky Kruse also made color fliers with Spenser’s photo and her telephone number.

“He was lost off Cornville Road while Dick and a friend were out riding horses. Dick had Spenser on a lead rope,” Becky Kruse said.

When Dick Kruse gave the lead rope to his friend, Spenser bolted and ran off.

“We talked to the Sedona, Cottonwood and Prescott shelters. Then we all went out on horseback to look for him.

“We looked everywhere. By 4 p.m. Friday [Feb. 19] we gave up,” Becky Kruse said.

About 1½ hours later, the Kruses received a call from friends on Page Springs Road. They heard a dog barking, looked out and saw Spenser.

“He’d picked up a trail, found a scent he recognized and followed it,” Kruse said.

Again in Cornville, a store keeper found a chocolate Labrador retriever. She called Skielvig who looked through files and thought she had the owner but didn’t. The woman is keeping the dog until its owner can be found.

In Cottonwood, a pair of Labrador retrievers showed up in a resident’s carport. She took them to the Verde Valley Humane Society where an employee recognized them. The owner lived around the corner from the woman who found the dogs.

When she returned them, a pet sitter said the dogs kept digging out.

“We scan every stray to see if they’re chipped. If they are it makes it so easy,” Verde Valley Humane Society Executive Director Cyndi Sessoms said. “We sometimes get as many as 60 stray dogs a month.”

Sometimes the shelter is able to hook the animals up with their owners right away. Otherwise they hold the animal for five days then put it up for adoption.

“People should check the shelter often, and come in and look,” Sessoms said.

Skielvig said when a pet is lost, or a stray is found, first call the humane society. They may have a report of the animal. If not, the people there can give advice where to go next. Secondly put up fliers with a photograph.

“There are several Web sites that do just lost and found pets. The quicker you do all of this, the better,” Skielvig said.

The Sedona City Council listened to a presentation Tuesday, March 23, on the feasibility study for a demand-response electric transit service in Uptown.

Greg Zucco, chairman of the Sedona Electric Transit Agency Task Force, said what it is proposing would replace the RoadRunner circulator that is not working.

City staff and Mayor Rob Adams will meet with representatives from the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority to receive their input.

roadrunner_logoZucco said what the task force proposes would increase ridership by up to 92 percent from what the RoadRunner is accomplishing.

The RoadRunner is not working like it should be and is not a popular transit solution to many members of the community, Zucco said.

He also said the use of electric cars will be much better for the environment because trolleys emit greenhouse gases.

Zucco said electric vehicles cost $17,000 each compared to the $287,000 for a trolley, and added waiting times would only be a few minutes since many of them would operate at the same time.

There would be no stops, with drivers instead relying on calls for pickup service.

The cost per rider, he said, would be between 25 cents to 50 cents.

He said there is a need for this service, but the main question is how much would the city allocate for it. Another issue is what the city would do with the expensive RoadRunner vehicles if the it stopped using them. NAIPTA would have to be paid back about $600,000.

Zucco said the city could work out a transfer plan with another municipality that uses trolley cars and added the expenses would be incurred by NAIPTA.

Councilman-elect Dennis Rayner asked during public comment about the safety factor since the photos Zucco shared showed no doors on the electric vehicles.

Zucco said motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles also have no cover.

Zucco added the vehicles would never exceed 25 mph and safety is a consideration for any type of vehicle.

Councilman-elect Dan McIlroy asked during public comment whether government should be getting involved in this issue and asked whether it was the government’s business to do so.

Councilwoman Nancy Scagnelli said the decision on this change should be made by the incoming council, and she did not want to give direction to staff without knowing what the new members want.

“This is a big decision,” she said. “My biggest concern is the service model.”

She said getting Sedona residents and visitors to think outside the box will be difficult.

Scagnelli also wondered how people would know what phone number to call to get the service.

“[The presentation] was interesting, and I think the next council should look at it,” she said.

Vice Mayor Cliff Hamilton thanked the task force for its great job and presentation, but he too wondered how people would know who to call.

Zucco said the idea is to have advertising on the car, as well as all the other mediums.

Hamilton said he thinks the city would need to take care of or eliminate the RoadRunner service before moving forward on this proposal.

Mike Goimarac, Sedona city attorney, said there is an intergovernmental agreement with NAIPTA, but added he had not looked into what it would mean if council wanted to discontinue the transit service.

Councilman Dan Surber said the only direction to staff he could support was talking to NAIPTA, and asked if this service was eliminated, what would it mean to the Verde Lynx.

City Manager Tim Ernster said discussions with NAIPTA must happen before getting too involved in next year’s budget. He added the city would need to find out how it could dispose of the buses if it chose to go in this direction.

“We need to have these discussions,” he said.

Scagnelli said she does not want the city to end up without a transit service whatsoever because once the door is closed on NAIPTA, it will never open again.

Adams said the idea needs to be explored, and he will be involved in the discussions with NAIPTA. He added since he serves on this board, it could help.

The Sedona-Oak Creek School District plans to continue offering full-day kindergarten, even though the state will not fund it.

kindergartenOn March 19, Arizona lawmakers cut $218 million in program funding for all-day kindergarten for budget purposes.

When classes start in the fall, the state will pay only for half-day kindergarten sessions.

SOCSD Superintendent Mike Aylstock said the state decision means his district will lose $210,000 in revenue, but he added full-day kindergarten for Sedona is a priority and will remain.

He said the district will reduce services in some programs to ensure parents can still take advantage of full-day kindergarten.

Aylstock said the district has offered this opportunity for several years and was providing it when the state was not funding it.

“We will have to find monies in the budget as we prioritize it,” he said, and the district needs to find ways to allocate the funds it does have.

Aylstock said he was not surprised with the state’s decision because there had been rumors full-day kindergarten was going to be cut.

He said full-day kindergarten is an extremely valued program that cannot be cut without impacts, but added the district realizes the state is in a tough economic situation where hard decisions have to be made.

He said research shows children attending full-day kindergarten do better than those who attend half the day. He said full-day kindergarten prepares them for first grade where they will attend school for the full day.

“They learn the social skills,” Aylstock said when talking about the benefits of full-day kindergarten.

He said the difficult decision is trying to find what can be cut to allow the district to keep full-day kindergarten, adding the cuts will not necessarily mean eliminations.

Aylstock said full-day kindergarten has always been something the school board and the district’s executive team valued.

SOCSD School Board President Bobbie Surber said full-day kindergarten gives young children a head start in education, so keeping it for its students and the community was not a hard decision.

”It’s very disappointing,” she said in reference to the state not funding the program anymore.

“The money will have to come from somewhere,” Surber said. “How or where is something we will be discussing in the next few weeks.”

Surber said Sedona is not alone; every school district in the state is being affected by decisions where funding is being taken away from public education.

“There is no white horse coming to the rescue,” she said.

Six Sedona residents filed a complaint last week with the Arizona Attorney General’s office against Sedona Fire District Governing Board Chairman Ralph Graves over alleged conflicts of interest with his employer.

The complaint letter was received by the attorney general’s office Thursday, March 18.

ralphgravesGraves is employed by Braun Northwest, and the company sells ambulances to the district.

The six residents — John Mitchell, Don Troutman, Joe Demme, Lowell Johnson, Phyllis Erick and James Erick — asked in their complaint for Graves be removed from office, fined or disciplined in some way.

Molly Edwards, the media relations director for the attorney general’s office, said she could not comment on specific cases, but added complaints are reviewed to see if the attorney general has jurisdiction and then investigated to determine if there are facts to back up the allegations.

She said it could take quite a bit of time to make a decision on any case.

Graves is accused of profiting when the governing board voted to approve purchasing ambulances from Graves’ employer.

Graves said he had nothing to do with the bid and was unaware his employer was going to make an offer.

“I recused myself and left the meeting,” he said. “I had nothing to do with buying three ambulances for Braun.”

Graves said he understands Braun was the best offer and that was the reason why the governing board voted in this way, but reiterated he was not a part of the vote.

“I had nothing to do with the purchase. I had nothing to do with the bid,” he said. “The accusations they are making are all false.”

The complaint alleges Graves, a sales representative with Braun, profited from the sale of this equipment and even voted when the company he works for was involved.

“Mr. Graves repeatedly voted on budget issues impacting these purchases,” the complaint reads. “During a recent board discussion of privatizing ambulance service for the district with a certain independent ambulance service provider, Mr. Graves criticized the possibility and stated, ‘They don’t buy ambulances from me.’”

On July 17, 2007, Braun Northwest was the high bidder for two ambulances and was chosen as the winning bid, according to SFD documents.

Because Braun was not the lowest bid, the governing board was required to give a reason for why it was approving a more expensive product.

The reason given was the selected ambulances had additional compartment space for firefighters’ personal protective equipment and there would be a 45 percent savings to refurnish the two ambulances in four years instead of purchasing new ones.

In 2009, the Sedona Fire District purchased another ambulance from Braun for a little more than $145,000, but there was no bidding process, according to SFD documents.

The letter to the attorney general’s office alleges since Graves is the chairman of a board that purchases capital expenditures from a company in which he is employed as an Arizona representative, there is a conflict of interest.

The complaint letter sent to the attorney general’s office said it finds the conflict of interest unacceptable and stated the bids for the ambulances by Braun is a red flag in itself. The complaint also claims Graves once had Sedona firefighters wash and polish a Braun test model ambulance while he attended a board meeting.

Johnson, on Monday, March 22, said he and the other five individuals who sent the complaint letter to the attorney general’s office plan on seeing this through to the end.

Visitor totals up more than 7,000 for spring break compared to last year

Businesses in Uptown Sedona received some welcome relief last week from the struggling economy thanks to spring break.

springbreakcrowdsThousands of visitors took the week off to come and vacation in Sedona, and numerous shops and businesses were extremely busy.

The Sedona Chamber of Commerce reports more and more visitors are coming to or returning to the city.

Sedona Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff said currently visitor center walk-ins are up 30 percent compared to March 1 through March 21 of last year.

Last year, 18,352 visitors visited Sedona through March 18, and this year visitor center walk-ins are currently at 25,554.

Wesselhoff said March is one of the busiest months of the year due to spring break, Cactus League spring training baseball and the weather.

She believes part of the increase in visitors is the result of pent-up demand for travel, increasing consumer confidence and the exchange rate.

“Statistics at our visitor center shows an incredible uptick in Canadian travelers,” she said. “The Chamber of Commerce Tourism Bureau, along with the Arizona Office of Tourism, have been targeting the Canadian market for several months through ongoing media relations and public relation efforts.”

She said businesses do better around the spring breaks that are usually sandwiched around Easter and some states have yet to have their weeklong vacations.

John Davis, who owns numerous businesses in Uptown, said last week was a good one, and added business usually picks up two weeks before Easter and two weeks after the holiday, which falls on Sunday, April 4, this year.

“We are encouraged by the arrival of spring break visitors,” Davis said. “We feel like it will continue to grow [through Easter].”

He said all businesses in the city were glad to see the large crowds coming out to shop during spring break.

“This is the time of the year when it gets busier,” Davis said, and added he thinks the best is yet to come since Easter is still two weeks away.

“All we need now is good weather,” he said. “Life is good.”

Becky O’Banion, who owns a gallery in Uptown, said business usually picks up from President’s Day in February to Easter.

Last week’s increase in business put the galleria only $200 behind what it made the previous year, O’Banion said.

She added spring breaks in Texas and on the West Coast have yet to come, and she thinks this will help.

O’Banion said while there were large crowds during spring break, visitors were spending less than what they did during the 2009 spring vacation.

“I am real happy with what we did based on [the economy],” she said and mentioned weeks like last week are necessary to offset bad times.

“Make hay while the sun shines,” she said.

Gallery owner Linda Goldenstein said spring break typically kicks off the busy time of the year and added it is as busy this week as it was last week because there are people from other states who are now on their breaks.

She said one reason for the high turnout this year is Sedona was listed as the best place in the state to visit for spring break.

“Sales have been very good and steady,” Goldenstein said. “The weather is beautiful, and people are happy to be here.”

Congresswoman introduces legislation to take next step  

annkirkpatrickAfter a careful review of responses and proposed revisions to draft language for a bill to designate the Red Rock lands around Sedona as a National Scenic Area, U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick [D-District 1] is taking the next step towards securing that designation, according to a press release issued March 11. She introduced the Sedona-Red Rock National Scenic Area Act of 2010.

Kirkpatrick has been discussing the best approach to this issue since before her election, and has been dedicated to getting feedback from the community. She submitted draft legislation to interested stakeholders and community members in October to get their comments, and her staff met with a variety of individuals and organizations to discuss what should be done.

The U.S Forest Service, Sedona City Council, Sedona Chamber of Commerce, Sedona-Red Rock Scenic Area Coalition, Sedona-Verde Valley Association of Realtors, Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, small business owners and concerned citizens provided valuable comments and edits to the text of the proposed bill.

“I have always felt that good ideas and good policy come from the people, and I want to make sure that folks here are able to make their voices heard,” Kirkpatrick stated in a press release. “I appreciate the contributions of all those who have offered their thoughts on this bill, and I look forward to working with them as the legislative process moves forward.”

The congresswoman is working hard to craft legislation that creates jobs and grows the local economy while preserving the area’s natural resources and environment, she stated in the release. She stated she feels that the input of folks both in favor of and opposed to the proposal made the bill stronger.

“This conversation will continue, and I encourage the community to stay engaged and keep providing feedback,” Kirkpatrick stated in the relaese. “I am going to do everything I can to make sure this issue is resolved in a way that truly meets the needs of Sedona and the entire region.”

Text of the bill:

111TH CONGRESS, 2D SESSION

H.R. 4823

To establish the Sedona-Red Rock National Scenic Area in the Coconino National Forest, Arizona, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Ms. KIRKPATRICK of Arizona introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on [no date provided].

A BILL

To establish the Sedona-Red Rock National Scenic Area in the Coconino National Forest, Arizona, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Sedona-Red Rock National Scenic Area Act of 2010’’.

SEC. 2. SEDONA-RED ROCK NATIONAL SCENIC AREA, COCONINO NATIONAL FOREST, ARIZONA.

(a) ESTABLISHMENT.—There is established in the Coconino National Forest, Arizona, the Sedona-Red Rock National Scenic Area (in this section referred to as the ‘‘Scenic Area’’) for the purposes of—

(1) restricting exchanges of land involving National Forest System land included in the Scenic Area; and

(2) managing the National Forest System land included in the Scenic Area as provided in the land and resource management plan for the Coconino National Forest.

(b) BOUNDARIES.—The Scenic Area shall consist only of National Forest System land in the Coconino National Forest, as generally depicted in the land and resource management plan for the Coconino National Forest on the map entitled ‘‘Planning Area Overview’’ and dated June 1998. The Scenic Area does not include any land located outside the boundaries of the Coconino National Forest.

(c) MAP AND BOUNDARY DESCRIPTION.—As soon as practicable after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Agriculture shall file a map and boundary description of the Scenic Area with the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry of the Senate and the Committee on Agriculture of the House of Representatives. The map and boundary description shall have the same force and effect as if included in this Act, except that the Secretary may correct clerical and typographical errors in the map and description. The map and boundary description shall be on file and available for public inspection in the Office of the Chief of the Forest Service.

(d) ADMINISTRATION.—The Secretary of Agriculture shall administer the Scenic Area in accordance with this section, the land and resource management plan for the Coconino National Forest, and the laws and regulations generally applicable to the National Forest System. In the event of conflict between this section and such other laws and regulations, this section shall take precedence.

(e) RESTRICTION ON SCENIC AREA LAND EXCHANGES.—Except as provided in subsection (i) with regard to acquisitions of land for public purposes, land exchanges that dispose of National Forest System land included in the Scenic Area may occur only if—

(1) the exchange results in the acquisition of land within the boundaries of the Scenic Area from a willing seller for inclusion in the Scenic Area; and

(2) an environmental analysis (including an opportunity for public comment) is completed before the exchange in accordance with the land and resource management plan for the Coconino National Forest.

(f) DEPOSIT OF CONSIDERATION FROM CERTAIN LAND SALES; USE.—

(1) DEPOSIT OF PROCEEDS.—Moneys received by the Secretary of Agriculture from the sale or exchange of land located in the Coconino National Forest shall be deposited in the fund established by Public Law 90–171 (commonly known as the Sisk Act; 16 U.S.C. 484a).

(2) USE OF FUNDS.—Notwithstanding the limitations on the use of moneys deposited in the fund established by Public Law 90–171, moneys deposited under paragraph (1) shall be available for use by the Secretary of Agriculture, without further appropriation and until expended, for—

(A) the acquisition of land or interests in land within the boundaries of the Scenic Area from willing sellers; or

(B) the operation, maintenance, or enhancement of the Scenic Area.

(g) NO EFFECT ON SURROUNDING LAND, ROADS, OR EASEMENTS .—The establishment of the Scenic Area does not affect—

(1) the maintenance or use of public, private, or Forest Service roads within the Scenic Area;

(2) the legal status, maintenance, or use of rights-of-way and utility easements within the Scenic Area;

(3) the management of State, municipal, or private land located in the vicinity of or within the boundaries of the Scenic Area; or

(4) the management of National Forest System land that is not included in the Scenic Area.

(h) NO EFFECT ON FOREST SERVICE PLANNING POLICIES.—Except as provided in subsection (e), the establishment of the Scenic Area does not affect the land and resource management plan for the Coconino National Forest.

(i) NO EFFECT ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT DISCRETION.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The establishment of the Scenic Area does not affect the discretion of the governing body of an entity specified in paragraph (2) to seek the resolution of encroachments and infrastructure or land use needs involving National Forest System land within the Scenic Area. Notwithstanding subsection (e), National Forest System land may be utilized or conveyed within the Scenic Area consistent with the Education Land Grant Act (16 U.S.C. 479a) and the land and resource management plan for the Coconino National Forest.

(2) COVERED GOVERNING BODIES.— Paragraph (1) applies to the State of Arizona, counties, municipalities, and fire and school districts in the State, and utilities serving the public.

nazih_hazimeSedona Fire District Fire Chief Nazih Hazime responded to Governing Board member Charles Christensen’s study “Strategies for Reducing Expenditures at [the] Sedona Fire District” in a written statement last week.

Christensen outlined 19 specific areas in his report, and Hazime replied to the 19 issues in a written report the district released to the public.

Hazime answers to some of Christensen’s questions and concerns are outlined below.

On eliminating overtime, Hazime said the overtime budget already decreased by 15.6 percent from the 2008-2009 fiscal year, with the overtime discretionary budget being cut by close to 33.6 percent.

He said discretionary overtime is created on an as-needed basis to fill required positions and to fulfill additional responsibilities and services, including those for administration, backfill, emergency medical service recertifications and non-district training.

“Backfill overtime will vary per individual based on personnel availability,” Hazime wrote in his response. “The overtime budget is supervised by the fire chief and the executive team on a daily basis.”

Regarding selling excess vehicles, Christensen wrote 50 percent of the fleet should be eliminated, Hazime replied the fire district already reduced its fleet by five vehicles and will continue to monitor the usage of other ones to make further reductions, if necessary.

“Our vehicle fleet requirements are based on operations and needs,” Hazime wrote in his response, and mentioned the community risk management division is responsible for proficient fire investigations, code enforcement, public safety and awareness and fire safety programs and their vehicles are equipped to handle these tasks.

charles_christensenChristensen reported he also thinks the only fire district employees who should be allowed to take home a district vehicle is the chief and asked why other employees were being given vehicles to drive to and from work. He named the telecommunications division as one example.

Hazime said the telecommunications division staff provides necessary on-call services to maintain constant communications throughout the district, and added the towers the division services support its 911 service.

He said this service to other agencies brings in revenue to the district.

“Maintaining our infrastructure is critical to the operations and the response time to emergency incidents,” he said.

Christensen wants to eliminate credit cards for employees to carry and charge accounts at local businesses.

Hazime said the number of SFD employees carrying district credit cards has been reduced and the carriers’ invoices and receipts are reviewed monthly before payments are rendered.

Hazime said charge accounts with local businesses allow for purchases of miscellaneous and day-to-day needed items. All receipts are submitted and reviewed.

Christensen wanted to eliminate staff hired for the Chapel Station that was never built.

Hazime said these employees were not hired for the station and instead were hired to staff the ladder truck. He also said three additional positions, for the chapel station, were never hired.

Christensen also proposed having a response time assessment done by an independent agency, but Hazime replied an independent study does not need to be conducted because SFD has the capability to do it in house by using its computer-aided dispatch and Firehouse systems.

Christensen, in his study, said a health insurance co-pay or an increased deductible needs to be implemented, and the fire chief’s response is the district is already evaluating cost saving health care insurance options and discussing options with employee groups.

Christensen said he read the chief’s responses and is still not satisfied. He accused the chief of stonewalling and trying to fend off the points he made.

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