The Golder Ranch Fire District Board has said "no thanks" to the idea of an analysis to explore potential consolidation of services with neighboring Northwest Fire District.
The Golder Ranch board voted unanimously, 5-0, on Friday not to proceed with an analysis that might have resulted in the largest fire district in southern Arizona if merger or consolidation were accomplished.
The Northwest Fire District board had voted unanimously last week to move forward with such an analysis if the Golder Ranch board concurred.
The two fire boards met jointly Friday at the Hilton El Conquistador to exchange information, and allow the Golder Ranch board the opportunity to consider whether or not to proceed with an analysis. Approximately 100 members of the public, media and firefighters were in attendance, with a number of Oro Valley residents addressing the Golder Ranch board during the call to the audience.
Concerns voiced during that part of the meeting revolved chiefly around whether a merger would compromise safety, and the effect it might have on the Golder Ranch taxation rate.
Northwest Fire District's taxation rate is $2.20 per $100 of secondary assessed valuation, while Golder Ranch's is $1.59 per $100 of secondary assessed valuation.
John Sullivan, Golder Ranch community services division chief, said the board specifically citied "a likely tax increase for its current residents as a result of any potential merger, as well as the fact the board had not received any positive support for the idea, which helped influence their decision that the timing is not right."
However, Sullivan noted, "the door was left open that in the future, as the economy recovers and we start working still more closely with one another, this might warrant a future evaluation, but in today's economy, it was not something they were willing to move forward with."
Northwest Fire District covers more than 140 square miles, including large sections of unincorporated Pima County north and west of the city of Tucson, the town of Marana, the Flowing Wells community, and the Tucson Mountain and Dove Mountain areas.
Golder Ranch Fire District covers northern Pima and southern Pinal counties, including Catalina, SaddleBrooke, SaddleBrooke Ranch and most of the town of Oro Valley, with approximately 220 square miles in its fire district response area.
Sullivan said the fact that Golder Ranch fire chief John Fink is retiring, and that a search for his replacement is under way, is one of the reasons that led Golder Ranch's board to "a more timely discussion of the issue than would normally have taken place."
Sullivan added the search for a new chief is an internal-external search, although no internal candidates have come forward at this time. He expects the Golder Ranch board to "whittle down the candidates to four to six people who will come back in February and go through the actual assessment process."