Activist seeks fire district annexation - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Activist seeks fire district annexation

Move could thwart Golder Ranch plans to take southern portions of town

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Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:34 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

An Oro Valley resident recently started a one-man crusade that has brought him all the way to town hall.

Since February, 83-year-old Phil Richardson has diligently called, mailed and knocked on the doors of more than 1,000 residents of south Oro Valley requesting support to allow the Mountain Vista Fire District to annex their corner of the town.

To date, more than 500 people have signed his petition.

“My whole focus is to keep a fire station near my house,” Richardson said recently at his Suffolk Hills home.

The town council has agreed to hear Richardson’s plea on April 1, when he and Mountain Vista Board Chairman Mike Treece present their proposal.

It’s a preliminary move that wouldn’t cement annexation, but would allow the district to petition residents on behalf of annexation.

In 1995, the town granted Golder Ranch Fire District similar annexation rights.

Golder Ranch has since taken over fire protection services for much of the town and established a multi-phased annexation plan.

The final phase of that plan includes Richardson’s southern Oro Valley neighborhood.

Rural/Metro Fire Department currently serves Richardson’s neighborhood and surrounding areas that Golder Ranch has targeted for annexation.

If the council approves of Richardson’s request, Mountain Vista could begin to gather petitions for annexation.

Later, if more than half of the property owners agree to annexation, the council and later the Pima County Board of Supervisors would give the process the go-ahead.

“The people need to come to me, I’m not going to them,” Treece said of the possibility of annexation. “I kept telling them I’m not going to fight my way in.”

For their part, Golder Ranch officials have said they don’t intend to stand in the way of the sought-after annexation.

“It doesn’t do the taxpayers any good to have turf wars over emergency services,” Golder Ranch spokesman John Sullivan said.

Richardson has attempted to get the ball rolling on the annexation for the past few years.

For him, the effort has been all about proximity.

A Rural Metro firehouse stands at Magee Road and Northern Way — slightly more than a mile from Richardson’s house.

Mountain Vista pays Rural Metro for fire service. Instead of signing individual contracts with Rural Metro for protection, Mountain Vista acts as an intermediary for residents who pay secondary property taxes to the district — a more cost-effective arrangement for homeowners. 

The nearest Golder Ranch station, by contrast, stands more than five miles away at La Cañada Drive and Lambert Lane.

If the annexation goes through, Treece sees a new era of cooperation developing among public fire service providers like Golder Ranch and private for-profit organizations like Rural Metro.

“The real big deal will be that the two fire districts came to an agreement for the benefit of the people of Oro Valley,” Treece said. 

Cooperation would come in the form of a mutual aid agreement between his district and Golder Ranch.

If that pans out, the districts would assist each other on calls or when one’s resources are devoted to major emergencies. 

The two also have come to a tentative agreement to divide the town at Hardy Road, with Mountain Vista serving areas to the south and Golder Ranch focusing its efforts northward.

Golder Ranch has plans to build a new firehouse at Linda Vista Boulevard and Oracle Road to better serve residents in the southern end of its district.

For Richardson, the burgeoning agreement would not only save money, but could save lives.

“A minute is an eternity when a house is on fire,” Richardson said.

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