Jen's Note: This is a blog opinion piece about my take from the Goodyear City Council worksession and in no way a representation of all residents in Estrella.
This worksession, February meeting, was very well run and I think our leaders are closer to making some headway on the topic. Unfortunately, the amount of time and tax dollars about to be spent is controversial.
Goodyear Fire Chief Paul Luizzi was given the opportunity to make a full presentation regarding fire service in our All-America City. He thoroughly explained the triggers and thresholds for building new fire stations. He also discussed where the need currently is for improved fire service.
The two main locations currently under review for building new fire stations are West Goodyear and Estrella... as discussed in this blog a month ago.
TRIGGERS AND THRESHOLD REQUIREMENTS
What are triggers and thresholds? They are the requirements which must be met before building new fire stations within various areas around our dispersed city.
In 2008, triggers and thresholds for building new fire stations were set at:
ESTRELLA FIRE SERVICE HISTORY
As it stands now, we have one fire station in Estrella. Fire station 182 is located on Estrella Parkway and Spring Drive near the Estrella Mountain Church.
Fire station 182 had a call volume of 756 calls in 2015 and an average response time of 6 minutes and 42 seconds.
If you recall from our last report, the main concern under review is service to south Estrella where Montecito and CantaMia are located. This area is referred to as the area south of the "Ray Road Alignment."
In 2015, 58% of the calls to this area were reportedly MORE than 8 minutes from Fire Station 182. Calls increased 34% from 2014 to 2015 with a total number of calls to these southern villages being 147 annually. More than half of those calls were for EMS, not fire. This is the second of three triggers.
Additionally, Buckeye Valley Fire District responded to 24 of these calls with a response time of 9 minutes and 58 seconds.
The only "trigger" being met for building a new fire station would be response times over 8 minutes because the number of calls to this area is just 147 annually... not the 500 which need to be met. The distance from Fire Station 182 to the area south of the Ray Road Alignment is 4 to 5.1 miles - under the 6 mile "trigger."
ANOTHER AREA OF CONCERN IN ADDITION TO ESTRELLA
West Goodyear is creeping up on meeting triggers and thresholds of its own. While no "triggers" are currently being met, the growth trends are showing it won't be long before they are.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
The cost to build a fire station and staff it looks like this...
Goodyear's Director of Finance, Larry Lange, reports the city has $17 million dollars in GO bonding in which the voters already approved. So, instead of raising property taxes, the city can use these dollars to build the stations and use impact fees to pay for debt service. Since bonding is already approved, the city really needs to figure out a way to pay for the ongoing operating costs.
Additionally, census funds can be used. AND the city reportedly holds $660,000 from Newland Communities and builders already collected to be used for constructing a fire station.
The Goodyear fire chief and staff essentially came to the worksession to discuss the option of conducting another study to see if the need is "now" for building these two fire stations. And boy... that questions rang some alarms. Here's a snapshot of the discussion.
I guess the reason why I have a hard time getting my hands around it cause to me what should drive it, at least in my mind, is response times and what triggers happen to be. We’re not sure… We’re going to do a study today and 2 years from now, the whole growth pattern may change.” ~Councilmember Pizzillo
Councilmember Joe Pizzillo says triggers should outweigh a study.
Vice Mayor Sheri Lauritano, who lives in Estrella, has concerns about the redundancy in mutual aid and thinks a study would be good... and wants the study to include police service as the last study was conducted in 2008, a time when Goodyear was seeing exploding growth.
We are getting a lot of medical calls.. and they say, ‘This might be a way to go’… I don’t know what the calls specifically are. But, I think the more information we get if we’re going to study it - let’s study it once - and get a plan because I know fire stations don’t magically appear in six months. We need some sort of plan in place as we grow.” ~Vice Mayor Sheri Lauritano
Councilmember Joanne Osborne, who was not present for the January worksession, had some fantastic comments on this. She highlighted the concern of having response times over 9 minutes to Montecito and CantaMia in Estrella. She agrees with Councilmember Joe Pizzillo that staff should pin down triggers. She also points out that by the time the study is conducted, the next trigger of calls for service could be met.
That’s critical to live saving. And that’s critical to brain damage, you know, any chance, you know, of having something be fixable. You’ve hit that for that threshold. And so, you know, it really does concern me when I see this eight minutes.” ~Councilmember Joanne Osborne
Councilmember Osborne also asked if it would be feasible to partner with Maricopa County or the City of Buckeye to build the Estrella fire station south of Ray Road.
Councilmember Sharolyn Hohman says studies are typically money flushed down the toilet. However, in this case, there's been so much growth and change since the last study in 2008 that it might make sense to conduct a fire service study.
It would make sense that those plans may not be valid today, either, when we’re looking at fire and police for that matter.” ~Councilmember Sharolyn Hohman
Last month, Councilmember Bill Stipp gave great insight into reasonable triggers and thresholds. While he was not at this worksession, he was able to provide input by phone.
1st, Councilmember Stipp asks Fire Chief Paul Luizzi what the real purpose is of conducting a study.
To establish the proper location for stations. To establish the proper response and trigger threshold for construction of new stations. And really what we should be using now as our current response time, goals, benchmarks, and baselines, as we start to move forward and kinda see the city in a light of the way it’s being constructed now.” ~Goodyear Fire Chief Paul Luizzi
So, if we’ve already identified twice now what the locations are based on the projected growth… I’m having a difficult time seeing what a third study is going to tell us that we don’t already know regarding the location of the stations.” Councilmember Bill Stipp
Chief Luizzi defends the reason for the study.
Is it valuable looking at the current station locations and are they in the right spots? And our future plan’s growth - are we currently going in the right areas?” ~Goodyear Fire Chief Paul Luizzi
Then Councilmember Stipp points out the obvious.
We know our police chief and our fire chief could want to say, ‘We need more,’ because we have allowed growth to occur in the pattern that we have and try to serve the community. So my concern is this report that we’re now going to PAY for - and I’m gonna tell you right now is going to be $50,000 and will police will be $65,000 to pay to have this report done - and it comes back and tells us that we’re ‘very short’ - what are we going to do then? Not that we don’t want to ask the question because we’re afraid of what the answer is, but we have to be prepared that intuitively we all know that we’re short and we all see the financial picture particularly as it’s laid out in the CIP that we’re not even talking about having, um, the development money till the early ’20’s… those could be five years too late.” ~Councilmember Bill Stipp
Councilmember Stipp is in favor of putting the $65,000 needed for this study toward other needs.
We gotta figure out a way to get ahead of this because… we’re maybe - what? - a year, year-and-a-half away, from just on the calls the western part just meeting on the number of calls. And it’s going to be more and more challenging up the hill [Estrella] when we get to south of Ray Road as a result of the redundancy with one outfit - or one station - not gonna be in. So nothing down there. And if you got a critical nature and it takes 10 minutes to get there, we’re gonna know what the result of that’s going to be. So, again, I think it’s real important to figure out a plan from a finance standpoint of how all this comes together.” ~Councilmember Joe Pizzillo
Councilmember Joanne Osborne laid out the potential timeline for any real action to take place.
Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord pointed out the council and city staff need find a "balance" in the budget.
What a shame we didn’t partner with Buckeye on a fire station.” ~Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord
Mayor Lord is right on the money. The City of Goodyear is known for - and has been recognized for - its ability to partner with other cities and agencies to make great things happen here. While she knows there will be public criticism, she believes the majority of council is asking for finite stats.
This is a very difficult, difficult situation to make decisions on.” ~Mayor Georgia Lord
This is a horrible decision to have to make. My concern is that the city continues to approve building permits resulting in more growth while these communities get closer and closer to tripping these triggers. Mayor Georgia Lord caps the discussion with this....
We did do this. When we have new communities, we notify the buyer, via their contract, on an addendum, what the response time was. And that we have a trigger of so many homes being built that that’s when it had to take place. So you have to be careful that you’re not gonna kill development. Cause if you kill the development, there goes your entertainment, there goes your retail, there goes all the things that you’ve all asked for and want. So it’s a really delicate balance here on how we end up with this.” ~Mayor Georgia Lord
THANK YOU GOODYEAR for setting the tone for the meeting so the fire chief could be heard and not rushed. I also encourage the city to bring the next fire station "discussion" to Estrella so more residents will attend and be involved. We have one Estrella resident on the Goodyear City Council and decisions like this deserve more resident input. I appreciate your concern on this matter and taking the time to continue the discussion. Thank you.
GOODYEAR CITY COUNCIL WORKSESSION FEBRUARY 29, 2016 HERE
ESTRELLA MOUNTAIN RESIDENTS BLOG FROM JANUARY MEETING 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.