What happens if you build a new fire station but you don’t have the firefighters or the equipment to operate it?
It looks like the Payson Town Council might be doing just that.
For months, the Payson Town Council has been talking about building a new fire station to replace its agreement with the Hellsgate Fire Department, which would provide service to residents on the east side of town, and it would be next to the location of the proposed new Arizona State University satellite campus.
Until just recently, service to that area was taken care of through an agreement with the Hellsgate Fire Department at a cost of $130,000. The $130,000 was due to rise to $160,000, and possibly more in the near future.
Instead, Payson will build a $1.25-million fire station. The council just awarded a bid to a local contractor, which is good news for the jobs it might create, or at least keep people on the payroll of a local firm.
The question in our mind is where will the Town of Payson find the money to equip the new station and to pay the six to nine firefighters required to staff the station? The town has cut millions from its payroll this past year, reduced overtime, cut staff hours, projects and even programs. So where is the money going to come from to staff and equip the new station?
The council is seeking a three-year grant, which supposedly the town will get, but then where will the money come from?
Projecting out the ability to pay for firefighters for three years with no money earmarked beyond that point is a bit of risk, sort of like what has happened to people who bought homes with low interest rates for three years only to find out they could not pay the mortgage when things changed.
The new station will cost the town and taxpayers some $750,000 per year in salaries, plus additional money to train new firefighters, buy hoses, fire trucks and various other pieces of equipment. The town needs a definite money stream beyond the first three years before going out on the limb and staffing the new station.
Maybe the time is right to build the station, it was projected to cost $1.6 million, but the winning bid came it at $1.25 million, so the town is projecting a savings on the new station.
One suggestion making the rounds is just to mothball the new fire station until times get better.
Currently Payson pays Hellsgate $130,000 to help provide coverage to that part of town. Payson needs to be talking to Hellsgate officials about extending its current agreement out three to five years and figuring out a way to use the new station for the benefit of both fire departments.
State needs to keep its promises with new tax
An extra tax is a hard sell. Especially when it’s because the state didn’t know how to manage its money and comes crying to the taxpayers because it couldn’t make hard decisions several years ago when the economy started slowing down.
But this mess is too disastrous to ignore.
Had voters not approved the tax, education would have largely taken the hit, leaving legions of future leaders without the education to fix the tragedy now in progress. Already, we have schools without the money to buy new textbooks, or even pay for a principal. This crisis could have lasting implications depending upon how next year’s survival-mode experiment in Payson schools unfolds.
We’ve already lost funding for all-day kindergarten. Elsewhere, we’ve lost health care for low-income kids. We’ve lost parks that entice tourists, and dollars that could strengthen our economy.
So thank you, Rim Country, for agreeing to finance our way out of this.
The tax is supposedly temporary, and we really hope that’s the case. As the economy rebounds, let’s hope those lawmakers don’t start their spending spree all over again.
And when the next recession hits, we need legislators with enough gumption to solve the problem before catastrophe hits.
Lawmakers listen: an extra 1 cent isn’t a lot — but it sure adds up.