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1/27/2013 6:00:00 AM
Employees go unpaid at fire district serving Dolan Springs, Meadview
Board of Supervisors Chairman Gary Watson
Board of Supervisors Chairman Gary Watson

Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter

Mohave County officials are working with representatives from the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District in an effort to stabilize the district after it was unable to pay its employees on Thursday.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Gary Watson said the county has been trying to help the district resolve the situation since he was notified two weeks ago by the district board and the fire chief that the district only had enough money to cover one payroll for the month of January.

Watson said the county won't know how bad the districts financial situation is until Monday, when the members of the fire district board will meet with county officials and present additional financial information.

According to state statute, the county has no jurisdiction over fire districts and the county is under no obligation to help the district out, Watson said.

However, both Watson and Acting County Manager Mike Hendrix are concerned about the safety of the residents who live in the district. The district includes Meadview, Dolan Springs and most of U.S. 93 north of Dolan Springs.

"It's a unique district with a compounding number of issues," Watson said. The district covers a huge, sparsely populated area, has a very small tax base and has to deal with high speed accidents on U.S. 93 and Pierce Ferry Road.

Representatives from the district met with Watson, Hendrix, District 4 Supervisor Joy Brotherton, Golden Valley Fire Chief Tom O'Donohue, Northern Consolidated Fire Chief Patrick Moore, the County's Emergency Management Coordinator Byron Steward and the Office of Management and Budget Director Gene Hepler Thursday to discuss the situation.

A second meeting has been set for Monday in order to give the fire district more time to present additional financial information and give the county and the other fire districts time to research options.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: anonymous anonymous

What does fire department employee do when no calls are coming in? They wait, do all fires involve medical care, no, should one be trained to respond to physical injuries, sure, how much does this training cost? I see much is made about folks being certified for medical assistance on first responders, does every member of the fire team need this training? Could not one fnd a volunteer, retired who has this certification or in absence of this pay for the training for enough members so this issue is covered, still say volunteer fire department, on call at home or enough of them to be on call in shifts at the fire station if its deemed necessary but no need to have full time paid employees sitting waiting on a maybe event!

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: Kirk Summers

Having qualified emergent responders cost tax money and there are few better investments in the safety of your family and property than competent fire and law enforcement agencies. Asking your neighbors to be "volunteers" is inefficient and worse selfish and cowardly.
Maybe some of the biggest contributors to the Fire District's workload should help support it such as the Grand Canyon Overlook. The reservation rakes in millions while the community support systems die on the vine. Many reservations are outstanding partners with their surrounding communities, especially concerning emergency services. Lastly, maybe the County should bring all the fire agencies under the umbrella of a county wide fire department. The economy of scale and the elimination of the administrative duplication of effort would save a great deal of money that could be spend on firefighters and fire engines.


Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Article comment by: bla bla

I worked as a Volunteer Medic for many years in the past and also a Volunteer Deputy in another county and you simply MUST be certified to be ANY type of medical provider before you are allowed to practice. Thats a STATE requirement, not a department requirement although alot of departments DO require that cert before they take your membership in. Most Volunteer Departments do not allow just ordinary citizens thats on their department to respond on serious medical or accident scenes. Actually the Volly team i was with didnt allow ANYONE that didnt have at least a FIRST RESPONDERS certificate to even respond on serious accident scenes, Us medics was the ones called out on that, and we did it VOLUNTARILY. Nowadays the State of Arizona requires even first responders to have a proper certificate, whereas back then during my days of service, it was a voluntary thing, meaning it wasnt a mandatory thing for first responders to carry a cert.

Another thing i have a problem with on this case is, do they even know of a thing called an IA or an InterAgency Agreement? If not then i think theyd better be checking into something like that. It JUST MIGHT help thier budgeting problems.
There is a state law that allows fire districts to IA with other agencies, whether it be other districts, state, city or county agencies and even private type or CORP type agencies. In doing this, it would help in alot of the budgeting problems, instead of just allowing the cost fall onto one district or agencies' shoulders.

The last thing that would help is this... whenever a fire district has an AMBULANCE, the liability insurance DOUBLES and sometimes even TRIPLES what it would cost to just carry EMT's or medics on the trucks. Yes i know that the trucks cannot carry patients to a hospital BUT it sure helps having the med personell THERE until an ambo that, id think the district would have a proper 'IA' with, gets on-scene.
So lose the ambos, lower the insurances and youd see a sudden drop in all those high costs.

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Article comment by: anonymous anonymous

I pay taxes for this Meadview, Dolan Springs area on my annual property tax bill, its raw unimproved land so I have nothing to lose in event of a fire, but I still pay the taxes each year along with other assorted taxes! I still say find volunteers, spend money on training, equipement, one does not have to have a untrained volunteer fire force who sit around waiting for a event which means one is being paid for nothing till a event occurs, get enough volunteers to spread the time on duty to a insignificant amount of anyones time or let them be on call in their free time at home! I guess one can go with what they have now inability to pay folks!

Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Article comment by: concerned citizen

To all of you so called concerned citizens. You might try getting all of the facts. We are about to lose our fire department because of very poor decisions made by the fire chief and ultimately the fire board for not staying on top of this situation. We have been in a recession for the last five years and yet this new chief continues to spend money by hiring new employees and giving raises,opening up sub-stations that do not have a tax base to support it, etc., when the department was already in the hole from the loss of tax revenue over the past few years. This chief and fire board were well aware of the this. Wanting a new chief with new ideas to be successful is a wonderful concept, but a good leader has a backbone to make the tough financial cuts and personel cuts if necessary in order to keep the department afloat. This chief may have good intentions but he has no backbone!! You all may want to get involved and start learning the truth about the outrageous spending decisions that are being made with our tax dollars and once you have all of the facts, start fighting back and get this under control.

Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Article comment by: Kingman Lifer

Brotherton is new on the job! This isn't a job you can train for you should be ready before you get elected. District 4 is so handicapped with this woman. You people have gotten what you deserve. You had experience people running and you elected a woman that has done nothing except live in Kingman most of her life. She had never even been to a BOS meeting. Good Luck District you got another Buster Johnson.

Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Article comment by: Rick Sherwood

It seems that something very important is being overlooked in these discussions. The accountability of the Fire Board. I'm going to take a wild guess here and say they weren't looking. Rather they were taking the word of their Chief and not checking facts. I think we need to understand their responsibility and start holding people accountable. It's not enough to point figures and let it go, someone needs to pay for negligence of duty. I hope the Board of Supervisors do just that.
Ref: ARS 48-853 Parah E:E. The district shall not incur any debt or liability in excess of taxes levied and to be collected and the money actually available and unencumbered at the time in the fund, except as provided in section 48-807.

Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Article comment by: L M

This new chief with new ideas has been trying to save this district and help the community! After years of listening to the scuttlebutt it seems as though the old management ran it into the ground and the new management is desperately trying to stay afloat and raise new hope out of the ashes. Careful what you hope for and say here people because losing this chief could be catastrophic for our community.

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Article comment by: not so concerned citizen

@ concerned citizen,

Are you aware that the fire chief is attempting to expand the district in an effort to increase tax revenue so you can enjoy the response of the fire department? Are you also aware the your taxes do not cover the response of an ambulance? And that the department is required according to DHS regulations to respond to whitehills and highway 93 and anywhere else within its requirements in a medical emergency? also, that monies from an ambulance comes from insurance and your pocket. Are you aware that the station at 19th street was costing money, not making money? Are you also aware that despite what past chiefs have done which is nothing but run the place into the ground willingly, the majority of a fire chiefs business resides in Kingman and other parts of the county? so the same costs to tax payers would be associated probably the same with the chief driving to Kingman Constantly? I could go on for days, but unfortunately the district is attempting to rectify the situation while you complain about the way its executed, if your so good and qualified at how it should be done why are't you a chief or on the district board?

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Article comment by: concerned citizen

I have a couple of facts to tell you all. Did you know that the LMRFD Chief has opened a sub-station for fire and ambulance service in the White Hills area, now you may ask whats wrong with that. White Hills is not within the fire district therefore all of the citizens in the White Hills area are getting these services for free because they do not pay for fire and ambulance service because they are outside of the fire district. Not only that, but the chief shut down the sub-station on 19th and Pierce Ferry Rd that the citizens of Dolan Springs rely on for the fire and ambulance service that they pay taxes for, so that he could provide services to citizens in White Hills who pay absolutely nothing for the same services. The LMRFD board did not make the chief live within the district in which he serves, so he drives from Kingman everyday on the tax payers dime. When he took the chief position less than a year ago, there was around 21000 miles on that vehicle, it now has almost 100,000 miles on it in less than one year. So the tax payers have paid for this man to run a vehicle into the ground spend way to much on gas at the tax payers expense, is unable to service the folks within the district in an emergency because he lives to far away, has opened a sub-station citizens who do not pay for the services. I could go on, but this should be quite the eye opener for anyone who cares.

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Article comment by: Jeanne Kentch

Most of the land in the LMRFD is BLM land. There are no residents, thus they garner zero revenue from property taxes. Many of the calls for service with LMRFD is on BLM land. These calls cost money, yet the fire district receives zero money for servicing them. When a fire district goes on a call that is not on privately owned property and is on BLM or State property they "take it in the shorts" so to speak. The district is not able to charge for these calls because the federal government pays for this area's coverage through PILT funds (payments in lieu of taxes). PILT funds were introduced in 1977 by the federal government to pay the safety personnel for the land they would not garner property taxes from. The problem is that the county takes this PILT money and keeps it. The money is never filtered to the fire districts, as the law intended it to be. Although it is legal for the county to keep this money due to a very vague state law, it is not right. That money was intended to help defray costs for fire districts, search and rescue and sheriffs when working on government land.

As for Volunteer districts, well they are long being replaced by career fire districts. Time's are changing and liabilities and services are very important when it comes to fire districts. Volunteer districts do not require certified personnel. I personally would rather be rescued while trapped in my car due to a wreck, by a certified EMT or Paramedic, what about you? The people that reside in a district that pay property taxes deserve trained and certified personnel also, heck they pay taxes and should have proper service for the taxes they pay. Now a'day's it is very difficult to find people that would want to get up in the middle of the night and go peel a person out of a wrangled car or fight a structure fire for almost zero pay. Thus volunteer fire districts are slowly disappearing.

As for Joy Brotherton, she is a supervisor, these districts are independent from the county in most issues, supervisors have minimal say when it comes to their policies and their spending. To assume she does not care is not fair, in my opinion. Heck she just got on the job, give her a break. But as for Mr Watson, his comments about the district being "unique". He is correct, unique enough that this district deserves some help from the county to service the county's many visitors and temporary residents that the district gets zero compensation from.

The current fire chief took on this debt just recently, I sure would not want to be in his shoes. Hopefully he will turn the district around, helping the district survive with the PILT funds that were intended for just such a district would be very helpful.

Posted: Monday, January 28, 2013
Article comment by: tj denton

firefighters and EMT's in a local area like this should be the first to get paid out of anyone. the only thing they are there for is to help those in emergencies and save lives while others just talk.

Posted: Monday, January 28, 2013
Article comment by: someone in arizona

Volunteers! Honestly that is a pretty selfish idea. Why not figure out why they are broke. Where is the money they are supposed to get and how was it spent. These people are here to provide protection and help during emergency situations. If you were laying broken on the asphalt would you want your neighbor with no experience working on you? Nothing against your neighbor but volunteers are on their own time so what if no one has time? You still need a steady group in place along with volunteers. Again find out if they have gotten money, how much and how it was spent>

Posted: Monday, January 28, 2013
Article comment by: bla bla

@ jeanne kentch

Even though fire departments are taxed by the County that doesnt mean the County is responsible for the district. Meaning the County is under no obligation to pay the crews or anything like that. Most people do not realize this but the only thing being a district does is being able to collect taxes through the County taxation and the only job the County does, by law, is collect those taxes and distibrute them to whatever districts they go to. For instance, if the County collects taxes for "special districts" which is what fire districts fall under per say, in Golden Valley, then those taxes are supposed to be just FOR the Golden Valley fire district and not intended for other districts. This is where the County part of things comes in, they just are there to collect the proper taxes for whatever district a particular fire district is in, then they manage and distribute those taxes to that particular district, as needed. Under no circumstances, under Arizona State Statutes are Counties OR the State responsible at any time for any fire district thus they are not obligated in any way to help fund or pay crews. Thats why alot of districts hold fundraisers or otherwise just dissolve if they want to be paid but yet cannot afford to be paid.

Posted: Monday, January 28, 2013
Article comment by: No One No Where

Why isn't Dist. 4 Supervisor Joy Brotherton taking the lead on this issue? Lake Mohave Ranchos is entirely within her district. But then again, she is from Kingman and probably doesn't care so much about the folks who choose not to live in Kingman.

Posted: Monday, January 28, 2013
Article comment by: Concerned Citizen

As a concerned citizen I would like to know exactly what Supervisor Watson meant by "It's a unique district with a compounding number of issues,". That's a mild understatement when you start looking at the recent history and financial debt this fire district has dug itself into. By looking at the county treasures report, the fire district is currently over $380,000 in debt with an additional revolving line of credit. According to the county, the fiscal budget year just started in July. On a recent visit to the firehouse, the firemen were talking about the pay raise their chief just gave them. I don't understand how the chief can give raises and then turnaround and not be able to make payroll half way through the budget year.

Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Article comment by: Gary Jankowski

Please pay these guys they are trying to keep you safe. Watching from Buffalo, New York.

Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Article comment by: bla bla

So WHY is this didtrict not on a VOLUNTEER basis like most other districts are? And if the residents are so concerned about the district not being able to PAY what SHOULD BE as volunteers, then why not just get together and form thier own VOLUNTEER based fire protection service? I know of several of those type of Departments within the State. TWO of those are in Yavapai County.

Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Article comment by: gun owner 000

That's an easy one, Gary. Just hand the Fire District "King Ronnie's" paycheck. That should cover most of their payroll, and we all know Ronnie hasn't earned it.

Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Article comment by: Butch Meriwether

Even though they do now have that many residents (as in other areas) actually residing on their properties, they still have non-resident-live-on-the-property owners who are paying taxes for the fire district because they own property located within the district. So, my quesiton is was there miss handling of funds and were there expenditures that shouldn't have been done. Didn't the fire district just take over Meadview Fire District last year? If something was done criminally, then charges should be brought against those involved.

Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Article comment by: jeanne kentch

possibly if the county would start handing over the PILT funds that they don't pay the fire districts, like the law intended, the fire districts would be in better shape.

Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Article comment by: anonymous anonymous

Once upon a time in a bygone era fire departments were all volunteer, guess either we raise taxes or change to a volunteer system using tax money for equipment and training of volunteers!

Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Article comment by: Al DiCicco

The BOS cand find some funding for the department yes they can. Last year the BOS raised our county real estate tax rate. I am confident that our new BOS will find a solution to help. Firemen and women are heroes.

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