Note: I am a resident of Estrella. I am not an expert in fire protection. In 2010, Goodyear fire fighters responded to an arson fire at my home in Estrella. This is what I was able to pull together from last night's Goodyear City Council work session. Yes, my opinion is interjected in this article. ~Jen
The chief is in a difficult position. He's got a union behind him saying, 'We need more people.' He's got a city manager who says, 'Holy smokes, we can't spend all of our money on fire protection.' We have a community that says, 'We want parks, we want this... we can't put all of our money in fire stations.' And, oh by the way, we got a police chief who's gonna sit there and say, 'Hey, what about us?' ... It's all a balance, but we need to have the information to make the right decision. And right now, saying this is a 'requirement' and this is how it lays out, we need to understand the foundation for the information. And right now, for me, it's a wobbly ground. ~Councilmember Bill Stipp
Estrella is made up of three villages. Mountain Ranch, which opened in 1988, is the northern most area of Estrella. Mountain Ranch is 74% built out and has nearly 4,700 lots being developed.
The next two villages are south of the Ray Road alignment.
The first is Montecito. Opened in 2007, it began construction south of the Ray Road alignment. The next is CantaMia which began construction in 2009.
As of November 2015, 647 homes had been built south of the Ray Road alignment.
It's anticipated the land south of the Ray Road alignment will have 4,000 rooftops.
The Ray Road alignment - marked in a dashed blue line - marks the growth area headed south and the subject of the work session considering fire service delivery demands in our community. The Ray Road alignment is where Calistoga Road is today.
Over the past nine years, the City has issued an average of 9 new single-family home permits a month south of the Ray Rd. alignment; in the last three years the City has issued an average of 14 new single-family home permits a month. ~Goodyear Staff Report
CURRENT FIRE SERVICE DELIVERY TO MONTECITO & CANTAMIA
Estrella's Fire Station 182 - the station just near Estrella Mountain Church - started out as a temporary awning in the mid-1990s and was formally constructed and completed in 2003.
This work session was put on the agenda to again discuss the construction of a second fire station in Estrella... Fire Station 186, previously called 804.
The 2006 DA originally contemplated that the fire station would be completed by 2008 and fully manned in 2009. However, due to the downturn in the economy, the construction of the station was put on hold in 2008. ~Goodyear Staff Report
This map shows miles and minutes for Estrella's current fire station - Fire Station 182 - to currently service the area south of the Ray Road alignment.
THE COST TO MOVE FORWARD
Council members discussed conservative ways to improve services to homes south of the Ray Road alignment. But, it appears going conservative may not be the answer.
What would be the cost to add... a truck... or add additional personnel to the station we have? ~Vice Mayor Sheri Lauritano & Estrella Resident
This is what we were able to compile during what was a very choppy back-and-forth discussion:
When I did come to you in 2014, you specifically said from the council that, "Don't think that you have to have all three triggers hit in order for you to come back to us.' ~Goodyear Fire Chief Paul Luizzi
In the effort to find cost cutting measures, Council member Campbell also asked what it would cost to add just a two man "medical" crew at the current Estrella fire station. The responses are worth taking note.
We could do something smaller or different, could we not? ~Wally Campbell, City Councilmember
From a station standpoint, I don't know that you want to build a small one because eventually you're going to have to add on as the population starts to grow, the call volume starts to grow, and that you're adding on additional costs in later years to a station. My standpoint is prudent to build one station once and build it as we currently build our fire stations with three bays. ~Fire Chief Paul Luizzi
This proposed fire station is designated as being a battalion station. At some point we'll have a battalion chief in Estrella. Why? Most of Goodyear's growth will happen SOUTH of the Gila River.
THE REAL COST? LIVES.
Adding just a two-man crew to the current station would be a "clock stopper" move. They'd be first to arrive. Because they'd be medical... they wouldn't be able to help on a structure fire at all. "So you're still waiting the time for additional support to come," states Fire Chief Luizzi.
Even if you just put in a two-man crew, you still have a time and distance issue south of Ray Road. ~Fire Chief Luizzi
Council member Bill Stipp has a great deal of knowledge on this topic and provided some thoughtful input that seemingly put this discussion on track.
We know based on years and years of study that a two-person EMS companies are not nearly as effective as four-person EMS companies. So when we're talking about delivering service, what we're really talking about is just getting somebody there. That's it... Let's ask ourselves, 'What level of service do we want to provide?' If we want to provide just band-aids and a rub on the shoulder or rub your back, then two people is the way to go. If we want to provide advance life support, we need to be all in. ~Councilmember Bill Stipp
Fire Chief Luizzi maintains the council told him to come back with information as the demand for a station began apparent.
While the next station... don't hit all of them, [triggers], there are some of them... The response time is greater than 8 minutes. ~Fire Chief Luizzi
Also note, some of the development south of Ray Road is creeping towards 6 miles away. "The area is certainly starting to develop and grow," Fire Chief Luizzi tells council.
NATIONAL STANDARDS VS. ESTRELLA STANDARDS
Council member Stipp reminded participants that the city previously had a discussion on triggers for a new station and how did the city come up with its own standards. His statements and input should be noted by residents:
A response time greater than 8 minutes for 30% of the time exceeds all of the national standards. National standards are 4-6 minutes. So we're doubling the national standard by saying we're okay with 8 minutes. ~Councilmember Bill Stipp
Council member Stipp goes on to say, "The Insurance Services Organization which rates insurance companies that sets our insurance rates says, 'The stations should have a geographic response area of a one-and-a-half circle.' The industry says, 'If you were to take a two-and-a-half mile polygon... and lay it in the same place, you're going to have to cover about the same area, but it's about two-and-a-half miles."
So even if we were to apply both of those standards, 6 miles is still well outside of that." ~Councilmember Stipp
BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME. BUT, IS GOODYEAR READY?
City council approves a lot of things. They've approved rooftops. But, what about approving the safety mechanisms for those lives? An ah-ha moment was had...
My fellow council members, we are pretty darn close. [Meaning close to hitting all the triggers for a new fire station.]~Councilmember Stipp
So, we're dealing with sprawl. ~Mayor Georgia Lord
We are doing this to ourselves.... That's another sprawl scenario that we keep approving households in. ~Councilmember Stipp
This triggers and thresholds was provided to us in the staff report as ‘requiring’ this [construction of a new station in Estrella]. This is a self imposed restriction. And ‘we’ as a collective council don’t have the ability to overcome that. The staff report says, ‘This is what’s required.’ Well it’s not required. It’s recommended. And we need to have a discussion about 8 minutes, 6 minutes, 4 minutes, a hundred fire stations or five fire stations. What level of service do we want? ~Councilmember Bill Stipp
DEVELOPER DEALS & WHAT'S IN PLACE TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN
According to a 2006 city council action form, "... representatives of Newland Communities and City Staff have been negotiating a Development and Fire Services Agreement to satisfy the zoning stipulation requiring a second fire station in Estrella Mountain Ranch with the 501st building permit south of Ray Road." Again, from what we've been able to piece together in a choppy discussion, this is what we believe to be the facts:
Because of a lack of organization and time... this conversation was put on hold.
Here's my opinion. And it's just that. I feel the fire chief is trying to tell council it's time to build a station. I feel Councilmember Stipp is questioning why the city isn't gunning for top notch fire protection. And I feel other council members are advocating for conservative measures despite the current need.
Let's hope this topic gets put back on the agenda and is discussed all the way through without a time limit. We need our city leaders to come to a conclusion on this. And the people need an answer.
Jen's Opinion: Work sessions have been historically hard to follow. The presenters come into these meetings with a thoughtfully laid-out presentation. However, council members interrupt with questions and take the conversation off the beaten path. Questions that could be answered in a thoughtfully presented manner could be answered... and lead to better discussions. I beg of council to let the presenters give their presentations then open up for discussion. This topic needs more discussion and has now delayed the important issue at hand... "When will Estrella get a new fire station?" Our fire chief was forced to hurry up his presentation and the topic was cut short due to the regular council meeting about to begin. This is not a good way to represent residents when lives are potentially at stake.
When questioning the staff report, various members of the council said they did not have the information. We were easily able to find the information on the city's website in the agenda for this meeting. In fact, we've pulled some quotes directly from those reports. We're posting the agenda here for anyone who would like to review the documents. When sending out agendas to council, I recommend staff follow up with each council member to make sure they have all they need BEFORE a council meeting... even if it means pointing out where to find all the documents.
Additionally, the correct pronunciation of Estrella is Es-Tray-Uh. Double ll's in Spanish are silent. This community is growing. And it's a disservice to the history of this land to keep pronouncing it improperly.
Finally, thank goodness for Bill Stipp. He provided the most eye-opening material and we are fortunate to have his expertise on this. Having a diverse council with various backgrounds is incredibly important... and this meeting is a great example of why voters should be paying attention to who they're voting for.
Saving money is important. Saving lives is more important.
You never need a fire truck... until you need a fire truck. What are YOUR thoughts? Discuss on the Estrella Mountain Residents Facebook page here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Barber is a Goodyear resident resident of almost 20 years and a retired broadcast news journalist. Involved in various nonprofit and city organizations since 2008, Barber has a unique view of what's happening in the West Valley of Arizona.