As most of you may know, in a few short weeks I will end my fire service career of 31 years; 12 of which were served here in the Rimrock area. We have hired a man to replace me by the name of Terry Keller who is currently the Assistant Chief in Sedona. He will take over on February 4th, 2013. In the interim Captain Dale Duns was named interim Fire Chief once my absence is official on July 29th 2012. The Fire District has a lot of confidence in Mr. Duns and we know he will do a good job during this time. The fire district is experiencing many challenges both operationally with the significant changeover of leadership, and financially with the declining values in the fire district.
The Fire District operates from funds that come from two sources. One of these is ambulance income we receive from transporting people to the hospital; the other is from property taxes. These are our only two funding streams. In recent years property values have declined to a point where the fire district is having trouble keeping up with the service the community expects and deserves to have. We have the funds to operate as we always have this coming fiscal year, but may have to lay off one employee to make the money work for the year.
We have identified some other ideas we have for gaining some additional funds to operate with in coming years. One is to apply for a grant which is called SAFER. It is a federal grant designed to help districts keep their personnel and fight off layoffs. The other is to schedule an override election. In the latter’s case values have declined to such a point that if it passed most people if not all of them would still experience a drop to their overall property taxes. This would in turn give the District a buffer to operate on until the economy can recover, which we think will begin here in two or three more years. These challenges are not new to us. We have operated on a short supply of cash for many years so we could provide the service to our residents the best we could without impacting them any more than we needed to.
I would like to say personally from myself to you that I will miss the friends we have made here. Four of my five kids grew to adulthood here. It is a great community. I have been asked a few times why we are leaving. The answer for us is family. My kids and grandkids are where we are going. I am excited about my future and the new adventure I am about to embark on. This community and the Fire District in particular are as solid as any I’ve seen. It has been an honor for me to lead the district into the future. It is now time for new blood and new perspectives. I would challenge the residents of the community to continue to help the district as you always have so you continue to receive the highest level of service possible. It may not be well known but we at the Fire District do listen to our residents when making decisions.
Thank you for allowing me to spend some time with you. I hope and pray for the best in the future. You all deserve that. Thanks.
Michael Van Dyke