Cave Creek fire coverage
Cave Creek cannot afford to be annexed into a fire district or establish its own fire department. Currently, fire coverage is provided by Rural Metro on a subscription basis. They respond to all calls regardless if you subscribe. Non-subscribers are simply assessed on a per service basis. Rural Metro’s emergency services have and continue to meet the needs of our community.
On Monday December 12th, the Council held a Special Work Session to have a “discussion regarding fire coverage in the Town of Cave Creek and related issues”. The issue was then rushed to the December 19th Council agenda, with a vote to put a new tax to the voters via ballot initiative and to dedicate a percentage of sales tax to the same. This is the latest in a long line of measures stirred up by the Town Manager aimed at expanding the Town’s infrastructure and overhead costs.
In 2008 the Manager organized the citizen’s advisory committee on fire coverage. I was on that committee and our ultimate recommendation to the Council was that “the fire coverage situation is not problem enough to justify the ridiculous expense it would take to make things any better”. Not much has changed since then.
In January 2011, the Town manager drafted and circulated a petition and presented it to the Council with an urgent plea to approve a ballot initiative that would put the question of town wide fire coverage up for a vote. At the time, I was on Council and we defeated that measure 4 to 3. I voted no because it was an ill-conceived mechanism to replace an expiring tax with a new tax to pay for something we did not need.
The Town Manager and other critics of the subscription arrangement argue that the cost of fire coverage is not shared equally. They want fire coverage to be paid for by a new tax, which would replace the Spur Cross assessment, and claim that on the average it would be less than what people who subscribe pay now. This position is reasonable if the master contract option is the only route considered. However, annexation into a fire district or establishing our own fire department would cost drastically more.
To annex into a fire district or develop our own department requires the burden of building a new infrastructure. There are significant expenses associated with ramping up operations (i.e. building communication towers and a fire station, buying equipment and fire trucks, and providing training, salaries, benefits and insurance). Many millions of dollars would be added to the Town’s already staggering debt.
If you feel that the subscription plan is not adequate, know that the only option is to secure a master contract with Rural Metro. Because Rural Metro is a national corporation already established in our community, it benefits from corresponding economies of scale. Therefore a master contract with Rural Metro will cost Cave Creek residents far less than the alternative to get universal coverage for the Town.
Based on the vote to send this issue to the voters, it is clear that new taxes and bloated budgets are supported by those on the council out of touch with the lingering effects of these slow economic times. The Spur Cross Assessment is set to expire, and Council should have let that happen gracefully. If the citizens demand universal fire coverage, they could always go through the ballot initiative process themselves. This was not Council’s place and this decision sends the wrong message.
Former Cave Creek Councilman
A problem that does not even exist
With reference to the proposal to impose a property tax in order to provide fire service, I would like to add my thoughts. Let me start by correcting an incomplete quote that was attributed to me in Sonoran News. What I actually said was "...when in the history of Christendom has the interjection of government betwixt a private company and the individual resulted in more efficiency or better service?" I stand by that quote.
In February of this year I attended a meeting at town hall where this issue was raised. Town Manager Abujbarah, in a long rambling disjointed and mostly incoherent diatribe attempted to defend the imposition of a property tax by claiming it had been requested in a petition from 50 concerned Creekers. He neglected to mention that the petition had been instigated by himself.
A property tax is a sledgehammer solution to crack a nut of a problem that does not even exist. At that meeting, Mr. Abujbarah kept insisting that subscription rates were around 43 percent despite Mr. Bunch and Mr. Esser offering evidence that 59 percent was actually more accurate. Then Fire Chief Kaetz threw the Town Manager under the bus by stating Rural Metro had provided him with erroneous numbers, and that Bunch and Esser were correct. Now this week in Sonoran News we learn the new rate of subscription, as provided by Rural Metro, is back down to 44 percent!!
Are you sure the town wants to be in business with a company that can't even handle basic math? This is also a company that has stated it lacks the financial wherewithall to promote its services. If they can successfully latch on to the town's teat, why would they need to bother.
A property tax would force people to pay for a service they might not need. Many people choose to self-insure. Out of state owners would be forced to comply without even being able to cast a vote. Vacant lot owners would be compelled to pay. Why on earth would anyone insure a vacant lot against fire? It is absurd. In this economy, I wonder how many land owners might feel compelled to walk away from their property and return it to the bank, thus canceling all tax revenues derived therefrom?
Further, the idea that those who choose not to subscribe are somehow getting a free ride is preposterous. They are electing to not use any of Rural Metro's services; how is this taking advantage of those of us that do subscribe? Believe me when I tell you that in the event that they call on Rural Metro to extinguish their burning home, they will receive a substantial bill for that service. Some folks are willing to take that gamble, as is their right.
At the aforementioned February meeting it was stated that continued fire service will require an expansion of services and premises in the coming years. Once a tax is established it will necessarily rise to cover those future costs. The initial tax may be cheaper than current subscription rates but it won't take long for those to be surpassed as the town adds extra "layers of efficiency" to the process.
All in all, a bad idea but something I have come to expect from our Town Manager. If he wants to initiate these changes he should run for office on that platform. Personally, I'd rather see him run out of his office. His constant politicized meddling has got to stop.
An outrageous vote by Cave Creek Town Council
The council’s vote is outrageous. I sent e-mails to all town council members and Mayor Francia voicing my opposition to the proposal. Where does the government get off on interceding on behalf of a private company to impose property taxes when the government has no stake in the matter? As I understand it, there is not one iota of evidence to demonstrate that that town is at all imperiled (financially or otherwise) by the small number of Cave Creek home owners who are stupid enough not to pay for fire protection for their homes. The council’s efforts are nothing more than a bald effort to create a new slush fund for government. It will certainly cause me to rethink my property ownership in that town.
I will try to stay abreast of developments and would certainly be happy to contribute to a PAC that works to get the tax proposition voted down. Thanks for your quick response to my e-mail and Merry Christmas from Montana.
Another taxpayer drain in a different suit
We don't live in Cave Creek so we don't get a vote as to whether we want to tax ourselves to enrich Rural/Metro. Jim Pierce has given us figures concerning the cost increase when Carefree surrendered to Rural/Metro. He doesn't mention though that they used to "protect" everyone in Carefree that voluntarily wanted their services, on a subscription basis which was a total of about $750K annually. This went on for decades and Rural/Metro apparently made a profit on it that way. Out of that $750K they paid their own rent to the Carefree Trade Center, their own utilities, their own staff with their related benefits, TV's, furniture, exercise equipment, kitchen etc. They also provided and paid for their own fire truck and all the expenses that entails.
Then the brain trust running Carefree decided to spend a couple million buying commercial land in the center of Town, building a Taj Mahal firehouse and equipping it with nice recliners, flat screens and exercise stuff and pay all the related freight for it, receiving no rent from Rural/Metro. They also bought a new fire truck and associated equipment for another half million or so. Apparently the idea here was so Rural/Metro and the fire truck could spend about 90 percent of it's time out of Town for one reason or another. The fire truck is regularly seen in Cave Creek and Scottsdale at mealtimes. Apparently they don't even like to patronize Carefree's restaurants. They also are frequently seen at Albertson's shopping so Carefree's Bashas’ may not be on their favorites list. One wonders just how much of their time and mileage is used to actually serve the Town of Carefree. With no IGAs requiring reimbursement from surrounding Towns they all effectively have free Carefree fire service. For this Carefree pays Rural/Metro $1.3 Million plus all the above that Rural/Metro used to pay itself. Jim Pierce could have a field day doing a financial cost benefit analysis of this.
What Rural/Metro really sells on their subscription service is insurance against their own billing. This is definitely not a case of subscribers subsidizing non-subscribers as they like to say. In the event of a fire Rural/Metro bills the non- subscribers very aggressively to "encourage" buying their protection subscriptions. If you add up the cost of fighting a fire which would be billed to the property owner and used a figure of $20K and a subscription charge of $2000 (that's what they want for a small commercial building on Cave Creek Rd.) the cost of their insurance is about 10 percent of the exposure. The insurance on that same building replacement cost of over $400K is about $1300 a year (with no requirement for a Rural/Metro subscription) and that includes literally millions in liability and medical coverage as well. But, interestingly enough the insurance company is the one regulated by the State Insurance Dept. while Rural/Metro is regulated only by Rural/Metro. Building insurance, if Rural/Metro sold it on this basis, could be over $40K a year without the millions in liability coverage. Do the math and follow the money.
What would happen with their proposal in Cave Creek would mirror the situation in Carefree, with Rural/Metro getting a free and highly subsidized seat at the public trough with unlimited, unregulated access to tax money. Just another taxpayer drain in a different suit. No wonder their goal is to get rid of the subscription system.
Name withheld by request
Carefree Christmas Festival - Thank You!
My sincere thanks to those in our fabulous communities, both far and wide, who came out to celebrate the 4th Annual Carefree Christmas Festival. Thank you to those who, even during these tough times, generously donated to the event; from the in-kind donations to the selfless giving of time from hundreds of volunteers in preparing their floats, to the joy on the children and grandparents faces alike as the Parade came through town...this was an event which literally touched the entire community ... and it's a wonderful thing.
Thanks go out to those members of this year's Christmas Festival Team: Councilman Glenn Miller, Councilman Jim Van Allen, Manny Gonzales, Patty Villeneuve, Marry Livingston, Holly Bergman, Roberta Toombs Rechlin, Rhonda Heinricher, Kim Prince and Sheri Nelson. I also would like to recognize the many additional hours of help from the MCSO Posse, the Carefree Public Works Department and our local non-profits including the Chamber of Commerce, Desert Foothills Library, Carefree Kiwanis, the Foothills Food Bank and Foothills Animal Rescue and the encouraging support of our local business owners and residents.
A special thank you too to those who helped provide the entertainment over the 3 day event, including Cactus Shadows High School Choir, The Main Event Swing Band, The Carefree Christmas Chorus led by Kevin Glenn, Toby Payne, Doggies of the North Pole, The Community Choir led by Karin Thomas, Horizon School Carolers, Carefree's Mostly Madrigal Singers, Adaptive Force Dance Academy, Desert Foothills Library, and of course ... Santa!
Did you know the festival was witness to TWO marriage proposals this year ... one of which was right in front of Santa! Now that's a Christmas wish!
A special thank you too, to the Carefree Resort and Conference Center for their generous sponsorship of the Parade, and to Harris Bank for sponsorship of the Fireworks show ... and a particular mention goes out to Chris Mellon who again graciously hosted a children's group prior to the Parade.
Finally, thank you to Sonoran News for the wonderful front page coverage of the Festival. Through the additional press coverage we received both locally and statewide, our crowds swelled to over 20,000 in attendance this year.
Yuletide greetings and good wishes to everyone, especially if I forgot to mention you in my thanks!
Happy New Year to you all!
Jo Gemmill, Director
Carefree Christmas Festival 2011
It's dog pile time and the media is the glue, or should I say goo.
The local stations are in a state of orgasm as they scramble to find every dirt speck they can to throw at Arpaio. The recall of Senate President Russell Pearce has electrified the psychotic left and the open-borders anti-enforcement human offal all the way up to the oval office, and they believe they are on the heels of letting illegal aliens run amok without concern of getting caught. Keep your eye on local TV stations as they dig, scratch, and scrounge in a monsoon of persecution to see who makes it first into the Hall of Defame.
Remember, they all have sponsors that want the illegals' business.
Same law vs. profits game, different day. Stand behind Joe Arpaio, it's raining filth.
Any Republican contender who rides a surge in the polls endures a virtual cavity search uncovering background minutia to be inflated by media hysteria into unspeakable crimes against humanity. During the 2008 campaign we were introduced to intimate details of Sarah Palin's courtship, sports activities, political career and her relatives’ antics. Bachman, Perry, Cain and now Gingrich stand for scrutiny not deserved of a lab specimen. Don't buy your wife expensive jewelry, take care what you say to those you work with, no flubs in oratory and don't eat corndogs. Perceived lapses and infractions abound. If either Romney or Ron Paul (tinfoil hat and all) win the Iowa caucus, he will be next in the barrel.
No misstep by any Republican candidate is overlooked, the more conservative the candidate the more glaring the misstep is made to appear - guilty by accusation.
Conversely our current Commander in Chief enjoys a media free pass. No one that I am aware of has ever seen his birth certificate, diploma, college transcripts, met old girlfriends, room mates or fellow students. He didn't live where his Social Security number would indicate, he voted "present" in the Illinois legislature, but was he? This man's background has as little substance as Casper the Ghost. He was the invisible man prior to 2008.
This is a President who may more frequently be found on the golf course or vacation than in the Oval Office. The walls of congress do not know him as do the podium and the teleprompter. The chambers of government echo with his absence. But, when the stage beckons and the cameras roll he is present to mount a relentless assault on the U.S. constitution, American ideals and the economic stability of the entire world.
I prefer invisibility and vacation.
What is Obama really up to?
Fact: 47 percent of the households pay NO federal Income Tax! Obama's 2011, one year employment tax reduction, will deprive our social security fund of $119 billion. If Obama is allowed his way, Obama will do the same thing in 2012 for another $105 billion shortfall. Borrowing money from China to give foreign aid, to send us stimulus checks and to reduce our payments into social security is INSANE. Our national debt maybe staggering, but it is dwarfed by our existing obligations to social security and government pensions. We can't survive 4 more years of calculated sabotage to our economy as drift into a failed socialistic European model. Anyone and I mean anyone but Obama in November!
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Ed Harris Jr.