Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Phil Richardson's Letter To The Explorer---Re: MVFD

Fire district boards are out of sight

I submit that often fire district boards allow only the most determined to know what they're doing.

I have lived in Arizona since 1957, and I've never seen a published notice of a meeting, nor an election of any sort for director of a fire district board. Since I helped gather the signatures of property owners for the annexation of my neighborhood into the new Mountain Vista Fire District, I kept inquiring until I knew the time and date of its fire district board meeting this week.

In Mountain Vista Fire District, notice of the meetings is posted on four boards scattered about the district. Finding one is the first challenge.

The elected directors choose among themselves who is to be chairperson, treasurer, secretary, etc. I have discovered that some intrigue was involved in the latest arrangement of officers – but that's the nature of politics.

It was when the monthly Mountain Vista meeting began that I was stupefied. Out of 25,000 persons supposedly invited to attend a crucially important meeting, called to decide the fate of two or three fire stations and two $480,000 fire trucks and the expenditure of a million or two, and whether a present fire station near my home was to be allowed to remain, I was the total public presence; the only person not an officer, director, legal counsel or firefighter — a score of whom were present.

I went to the meeting because some 2,400 persons who are now in the Mountain Vista Fire District do not know that there is a not-so-discrete plan amongst some of the directors and the administrative chief to close a fire station located a stone's throw away from my neighbors and me – the one on Magee just west of North Oracle, after we were promised that it would it continue to be allowed to protect us if we voted for annexation. We also discovered this week that the number of fire stations promised the district has been recently proposed to be reduced from three to only two. It worries us that a district of 12 square miles, inhabited by 25,000 persons could be adequately served and protected by only two fire stations.

Phil Richardson, Oro Valley

This letter was shortened – Ed


Conny said...

I'm pleased to see that Phil Richardson is taking a closer look at Mountain Vista Fire District. I think we all of need to be more involved with all of our local government entities. I'd like to read the full version of his letter that was posted on this blog.

An important fact I discovered by attending the joint meeting between Golder Ranch and Northwest Fire District is that Golder Ranch is the only Fire District that includes the cost of ambulance transport in their Fire District taxes. They supplement the costs that insurance companies don’t pay with the taxes that they collect so that we (their citizens) don’t have to pay any additional monies.

For our family that's a great benefit since we all know that with escalating deductibles and insurance companies charging more and more for less coverage. These costs for medical transport, that can be hundreds to thousands of dollars, are passed on to the consumer.

Phil, do you know if Mountain Vista includes the cost of an ambulance in their tax rate? Our residents need to make sure what they are getting for their tax dollar.

Everything in life comes down to a cost vs benefit. You go Phil!

Christopher Fox said...


Sorry, but the Golder Ranch inclusion of ambulance services is a boondoggle. I now pay twice what I paid Rural-Metro for fire and ambulance coverage, and Rural Metro is still providing me with ambulance coverage. What divine stroke of providence allows me to pay twice the amount for exactly the same coverage?

Zev said...

Christopher, please explain how, if you are being serviced by Golder Ranch, you are also paying for ambulance service from Rural Metro.I am not confronting you, I am curious how this could be.

My experience with Rural Metro's ambulance service, as I have written before, was terrible. A little over two years ago, at the UMC clinic at Ina Road near Oracle, I was diagnosed as having a case of SEVERE pneumonia, so severe that my doctor called an ambulance within a few minutes of his examination. It took over an hour for the ambulance to arrive (after the doctor made several calls), and once I was 'aboard' they futzed around, took the 'scenic' route, and delivered me to the hospital about 50 minutes after they 'got' me (normally about a 15 minute trip by car). I was later told my my physician that my condition had been dire. This ambulance 'service' was provided by Rural Metro. Also,I have HEARD of other 'weaknesses' that this company has had.

Now, having been in the retail field for many years, I can affirm that there is a correlation between what you pay and what you get. Two sofas can look alike - virtually the same style, similar fabric, etc. and, at least when I was in the business, both made in the same area (within the U.S.). One might have cost the consumer $500, the other $1000. Did they necessarily 'perform' in the same manner? Well, you could sit on both and that was about the extent of it; the $500 sofa might last a year or so whereas the $1000 product would last for perhaps 10 years. In addition, if you had a problem with the $500 unit, the store where you bought it might not cover such whereas the store where you bought the $1000 one most probably would. Conclusion: again, you usually get what you pay for!

I live in an area where some of the population is aging and 'things' happen. This community is serviced by Golder Ranch and, when something does happen, they are 'johnny on the spot'! Am I willing to pay a bit more for the assurance that, if something goes wrong, I can get better service? Especially when my health and property are at stake, you betcha! Financial accountability
is important, too, and I do feel that because these districts are 'political subdivisions', transparency is a must.

Now, as to what Phil and his district have been going through, that appears to be perhaps a typical case of a company asking for blind trust and then turning around and changing their tune after they have gotten what they wanted. Phil, an outstanding and honorable man, worked his butt off to get a fair arrangement for his community in order to partner with the Mountain Vista Fire District. Are they now 'pumped' by what his neighborhood thought was a victory? It is unfortunate that in this day and age a 'handshake' isn't worth much anymore; even 'binding' contracts are becoming more and more unenforceable. Look at those wonderful sportspersons who sign large contracts to play for a team, have a good year, and then tell the team that enabled their progress that [if you don't renegotiate my contract, I won't play for you anymore]. Hmnnn.

all_seeing_eye said...

Lets get some clarification. Zev,You were very likely transported by Southwest Ambulance. SWA is a subsidiary of Rural Metro Corp. Separate management, separate employees, separate dispatch from Rural Metro Fire Department. They only share the parent company. Now, in reference to your transport, when you call 911 everyone gets there "johnny on the spot" because it is a supposed emergency. Urgent Cares will usually call a non-emergency line when arranging to have someone transported. Typically, they will be told that they will have someone there "within the hour", but sometimes it takes longer. Now, it's my understanding that if Southwest Ambulance cannot get a paramedic unit to the facility in an agreeable time frame due to call load, they will ask Rural Metro Fire to send a unit who is closer, but, then that takes their paramedic unit away from the area they serve to handle a non-emergency transfer. Contrary to what most understand, there are people all over the city that require non-emergency transports by paramedics from one facility to another on any given day. There are only so many ambulances available and some of those have to be left alone to handle emergencies. So, your while pneumonia was dire to you, you were likely prioritized and were transported in the order the call was received. If you were having an emergency, the physician would have called 911.
In reference to the comment about paying for Rural Metro in Golder Ranch- Southwest Ambulance has a contract with Golder Ranch to provide ambulance transports. Since, as I mentioned, Southwest Ambulance is a subsidiary of Rural Metro Corp. it can be easily confused that residents are still paying for ambulance service from Rural Metro Fire. They are not. If you get transported, Southwest Ambulance bills the insurance carrier. But, if Golder Ranch is claiming that ambulance service is covered in the tax rate, that may be a misnomer since the service is, in fact, provided by Southwest Ambulance.
It's great that Phil is keeping the fire district honest. More residents should do the same. But, let's remember that the fire board is made up residents who also pay taxes and were elected to oversee the district business. They don't want to waste money anymore than the residents do. As Phil discovered at the subsequent meeting, there was a fiscal reason why there was an effort to purchase two fire engines before the end of the year. In addition, the fire engines have to be built and would have arrived just about the same time that the new stations were being completed. So, in reality, it all made some sense. However, the board ended up voting to hold off on the fire engine purchases until further review could be made. And, the decision was made without a room full of angry residents screaming at them. In the end, it sounds as though the Mountain Vista board is being quite reasonable.

Zev said...

To be totally honest,"all-seeing-eye", I was on the verge of death not just in 'dire' straights as you who were not involved are attempting to assume. There were at least three calls made by my physician to the ambulance service (so I guess it takes four or five before it's determined to be a priority emergency?); he kept getting the 'spiel' [they'll be there any minute now]. After I was situated in the vehicle the drive from Ina and Oracle to UMC took about 50 minutes (or longer)! I even asked the attendants why it was taking so long, they just shrugged and indicated that they had not taken the [most direct] route. For me, death would not have been a satisfactory conclusion! Stop the uneducated (in my case) excuses!

all_seeing_eye said...

I'm not here to battle you. No excuses here, just reality. That's the system here. And, if you were truly dying then that urgent care physician did you NO favors by not calling 911.
I am not familiar enough with Southwest Ambulance to know why it took so long. My question is why didn't the physician say it was an emergency when he called and why didn't the crew transport you to the hospital with lights and sirens? We can only speculate.
All I'm doing is offering some clarification about the system as I know it. When you call 911 EVERYONE gets there "johnny on the spot", not just Golder Ranch.
Your disdain for Rural Metro is obvious but I'm not sure that a broadstroke application due to an incident that happened two years ago with Southwest Ambulance is fair.
Phil has publicly spoken about how quickly Rural Metro Fire has gotten to his home.
Again, not here to pick a fight. The topic was keeping fire districts honest. If you check Phil's later post, I'll think you'll see that he found some resolution at the following district meeting.