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8/7/2013 6:00:00 AM
Troubled fire district's debt slowly receding
Concerns remain about staffing levels
The response to a washed-away tour bus July 28 figured into this week's discussion of the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District. (Courtesy)
The response to a washed-away tour bus July 28 figured into this week's discussion of the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District. (Courtesy)
Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - A much smaller Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District may be out of debt by July 2015, but some residents told the Mohave County Board of Supervisors that they're worried that cuts in district staffing are endangering lives.

District Administrator John Flynn was hired by the Board to take over the fire district in February after the district found itself unable to pay its employees or a $450,000 line of credit due to Wells Fargo Bank. He cut staffing levels to the bare bones in order to pull the district out of debt.

"It's unacceptable for the district to operate at this level," said White Hills resident Mark Shaver. "We've dodged some major bullets."

He pointed to a recent accident where a bus was swept off of Pierce Ferry Road by floodwaters. Shaver said he was at the accident scene and it took four hours for emergency responders to get there. The first two

responders who arrived couldn't do anything because they didn't have any equipment.

"(Staffing levels) need to be readdressed," he said. "You cannot sacrifice the safety of people."

Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District Chief Patrick Moore disagreed with Shaver's version of events in a Tuesday afternoon phone call.

"The dispatch center first got the call around 1:15 p.m.," he said. The first rescue vehicles from Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District were on the scene at around 1:30 p.m. Pierce Ferry Road is about 10 miles outside of Dolan Springs.

Vehicles from Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District arrived down stream from the bus on Stockton Hill Road around 2 p.m., and by 2:20 p.m. all of the bus' passengers were on dry land.

"I know. I was there," Moore said. "It may have taken four hours to get a new bus there to pick those people up."

Even if the Dolan Springs station had 10 people on staff at the time of the accident as it did before the county took over the district, it wouldn't have made a difference in the response times or how the accident was handled, he said.

Ladonna Cypriot from Dolan Springs said she called the fire department for an ambulance for her dying husband on Jan. 27. When the ambulance arrived, the paramedic appeared inexperienced.

"He just stood there by the door to the ambulance and told me to get a list of my husband's medications," Cypriot said. "My husband wasn't breathing. He died before they got to the fire department."

If the Dolan Springs station was fully staffed, her husband may not have survived, she said, "but there would have been someone there who could have helped him."

Another Dolan Springs resident said she called 911 after experiencing chest pain and waited 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive from White Hills.

Moore pointed out on Tuesday that both of those calls happened in January before Flynn was hired as the district's administrator. He said he didn't want to dispute the residents' claims at Monday's meeting because it wasn't the right time or place.

"That's not what we were there for," he said.

A community meeting in the Dolan Springs area to discuss the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District's finances is set for the beginning of September.

Flynn said he understood the community's concerns about staff, but a decision has to be made - how fast do the supervisors want to pull the district out of debt?

The majority of the district's expenses were related to labor, Flynn said. If the Board of Supervisors wanted to increase staffing at the stations, he could do that, but it also would take longer to pay off the district's debts.

The credit line from Wells Fargo wasn't the only debt the district had to pay off, he said. The district also had $147,000 in outstanding bills and more than $97,000 in other debts.

"There were significant variations in how the district's budget was created and the amount of tax revenue they were bringing in," Flynn said.

The district's governing board overestimated the amount of money the district would take in from taxes, he said. It budgeted for nearly $2 million in tax revenues and collected nearly $777,000.

The district board didn't budget for people not paying their taxes, he said. If the district collected 100 percent of the property tax revenues due to it in the last half of this year, it would collect around $293,000, but Flynn expects 20 percent of the property owners not to pay their taxes.

In order to move the district back toward solvency, he cut staff to the bare minimum needed to run both the Dolan Springs and Meadview stations; fired the district's fire chief, Mark Hruz; demoted a battalion chief; and signed an agreement with Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District to provide management services.

The move saved the district $185,00 in personnel costs, he said.

Flynn also outsourced bill collection for the district's ambulance service and sold anything in the district that wasn't putting fuel in the fire trucks' tanks, necessary to repairing the trucks or providing a service to the community.

He also eliminated service to all calls that are outside of the district's boundaries.

The district is currently waiting on more than $400,000 in Medicare/Medicaid payments for ambulance services, Flynn said. And all tax revenues collected by the district have gone to paying off the Wells Fargo line of credit. Flynn expects to cut the amount of money due to Wells Fargo from its current level of $204,000 to $185,000 by November.

The district has been operating off of a $150,000 loan from Mohave County and will probably end up borrowing more from the county until the Wells Fargo credit line is paid off, he said.

Flynn also pointed out that even after the district pays off all of its debts, it would be unlikely that district would ever have as many firefighters as it did in 2012.

The district had at least 10 firefighters at the Dolan Springs station, Moore said.

"It's just not sustainable with the amount of income they're bringing in," Flynn told the Board.

Re/Max - cdavidcooley (rentals/sales)
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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, August 10, 2013
Article comment by: Ed Roggenstein

This is not a new issue. It has been ongoing for decades since my family first moved to Kingman in 1977. If you choose to live in a Rural area where it takes an hour to 1 1/2 hours to get a major super market it is very inappropriate and unrealistic to expect Law Enforcement, Fire or EMS to respond within the same time frame as in city. This is the trade off for living outside of city limits and in the boonies. As far as Mr. Shaver's comments toward Mr. Moore about time frame, 5 minutes in an emergency situation can seem like hours. Most of those type of complaints are shot down with review of dispatch tape and recordings with time marks. If most of the residents in outlying ares are really concerned then take the steps to form a Volunteer Department. I'm sure KFD, GVFD and NACFD would be more than willing to assist in training of personnel in order to provide an adequate first responder unit which would allow these other institutes time to respond in a delayed frame. Again, just my opinion

Posted: Friday, August 9, 2013
Article comment by: We The People{me} Thinking

Gotta love the attitude in this town let'em DIE until the bill's are paid-- AWESOME!!! and everyone is a keyboard expert on pointing fingers and blaming instead of trying to find solutions to a very bad situation these keyboard experts just post negative rants and think their opinion is the big cheese, so here's my positive thinking follow up on the CSA offer of help--- clearly some values the dollar over the value of life-- I say drag out the repayment program,I pay tax's too and i don t mind paying them, do whats right and add more staff at a more effective level give the town/visitor's a better fighting chance at survival,

Posted: Friday, August 9, 2013
Article comment by: A for real concerned citizen

Re: Ed Roggenstein and Calling for SuperHero Injury Attorney:

Yes, both of you brought up some very good points.

However, there is a person on this board who is oddly calls his or rather herself I believe ) "concerned citizen" who will argue with you that the so called "stupid motorist law" does apply in the case of that bus driver, very happy that they will not have to reimburse the agencies who responded to their rescue which is even more insulting and disrespectable to our bravest and finest agencies.

As for A.R.S 28-910, it is obvious that statute clearly needs to be amended to “or barricade” instead of “and” which would make that statue extremely more effective by making sure rescue agencies get reimbursed.

So go ahead careless drivers, keep risking your lives by driving though flash flooded roads when it is impossible for the County Road Department to respond instantly to set up barricades which is impossible to predict when exactly when and where floods will occur, all while mocking the “stupid motorist law” (which as written is a joke) that will not apply when you need to be rescued.

Posted: Friday, August 9, 2013
Article comment by: Nikki B

Everyone wants a balanced budget until *their* services are affected, or *their* programs get cut. We see this locally, like this situation, statewide, and nationally.

You *cannot* spend more than you have and call that responsible governance.

Instead of complaining about reduction in services, why aren't you getting all residents in the area to pay their taxes? That $273k would go a long way to paying off the debt you've already accrued.

Once you're in the black again, you can talk about adding more personnel or services.

Seems like common sense to me.

Posted: Friday, August 9, 2013
Article comment by: Blind Faith

It's all about the board. Rubber stamp "yes men" are only to happy to spend up your money. Elect people who aren't afraid to ask the hard questions.

Posted: Friday, August 9, 2013
Article comment by: vock canyon

It is good to see a fire district changing so that it is operating within it's budget. I think it is sad that some of the other local districts are unwilling to do the same thing before they get into trouble.

Posted: Friday, August 9, 2013
Article comment by: Calling for SuperHero Injury Attorney

No one is remembering LMRFD is the victim here for putting human life above budget concerns. Where is the compensation for responding to tourist from all over the world heading to Grand Canyon West? Of course they aren't paying into the county property tax cofers. It cost $ to go out there and save their butts speeding down from Vegas and wiping out on 93 or Peirce Ferry Rd. Can Someone figure out how to sue their insurance companies for the damage?

Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2013
Article comment by: Ed Roggenstein

Why was the bus driving through a flood area after a major monsoon downpour in the first place. The posted picture seems to show a bus that entered an area it never should have. Almost sounds and looks like a "Stupid Motorist Law Violation" rather than a Fire Department issue. In this case I would be more concerned that the Bus Company had a driver that lacked common sense and put his/her passengers in danger. Just my opinion.

Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2013
Article comment by: Just Saying

I'm still waiting for when the lawsuits will be filed against the last Board and their Chief. Someone needs to pay for this failure of public trust.

Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2013
Article comment by: @ All Residents Affected

First and foremost, Flynn was hired to get LMRFD out of debt, period. He is doing his job and unfortunately to do so had to cut staff. In a perfect world, every single property owner would pay their taxes on time and in full, but this is not reality because times are hard. LMRFD did not cut spending when it should have they just spent more (i.e. raises).
If you listened to Flynn, he stated that even after the debts are paid off at the current staffing levels LMRFD could not sustain itself. My suggestion residents you want more/better services, help your department look for other ways at bringing in some money! Perhaps there is something the community can do to raise some funds?
Safety is very important, at least you all still have services, minimal yes, but the other solution would be to shut it down all together leaving you with nothing! Instead of telling them what they should do, offer up some assistance and help! Volunteer!

Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2013
Article comment by: Think About It

For those in these types of remote areas, why not just start a privately contracted fire dept? Doing this is very easy to do if residents can come together and do it. All it takes to make it 'legal' is to incorporate with the State. Since firefighters are not required to be certified in the State of Arizona, then incorporation is the way to go. All youd need to do is find a way to get the trucks and the equipment. ALOT of fire districts and other types of companies are usually willing to donate the things you need to get you started. Its just a matter of asking around. Then staff the FD with volunteers then you are good to go. At least this will work until the bigger districts are able to get onscene.

Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Article comment by: concerned citizen

You can't expect instant service from any agency, if you live in such a large coverage area as that part of the county.

And if the complainers would get their fellow freeloaders to pay their fair share of the property taxes, they wouldn't be that bad off.

Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Article comment by: Just Say-en

"He also eliminated service to all calls that are outside the districts boundaries". I live in Lake Mead city, which is considered outside those boundaries. Even though it is between Meadview and Dolan Springs which are both considered inside the district boundaries. Go figure! I pay a Fire District TAX assessment on my property TAX bill every year but according to the Lake Mohave Fire District, that does not cover me for fire (Taxation without Representation). So I must pay every year an additional $200 out of pocket "Fire Subscription" or they will not come to my property to put out a fire. And as usual they want to blame employees. To many firefighters. Believe me, that has never been the case out here. Like with most fire departments, "To many Chiefs (high salaries) and not enough Indians".

Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Article comment by: WAKE UP PEOPLE!!


Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Article comment by: Kevin Thomas

The cutbacks left Meadview with NO ambulance. It has to come from Dolan! They're putting a dollar value on lives!!!

Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Article comment by: Mark Shaver

So Mr.Moore disagree with my version of what took place and just what side of the wash were you on and what time did you arrive??? SO here's a shout out to all those who were there and have taken video's/picture's --I know most of the picture's / video were taken by visitor's/tourist to our area but if you catch wind of this please feel free to e-mail or post to my facebook page, showing bothside's of the wash would be nice showing the people--I understand that there is a financial problem with fire dept. the question is who and how many live's are you willing to sacrifice to solve the debt,instead of worrying about how fast the county will get its money,the county should be worried about the live's in jeopardy as a result of this type of narrow minded thinking,All of us have been very lucky so far and I for one do not want to keep pushing it,from what i hear The CSA rep. that was there may have mention helping out with funding for the fire dept if this is possible then perhaps our community could be best served if you were to advocate this and not the other,people first Mr.Moore people first,if that means if the county has to drag out the payment program then so be it,Now To the one supervisor who's line of questioning showed more concern for the repayment of county tax payer money then the taxpayer live's now how twisted is that???Risking the live's of many.

Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Article comment by: Always Amazed

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Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Article comment by: Carol Ann Rivera-Miller

Just a quick note. Yes, this issue does affect our community for emergency responses in timely manner. It also is starting to spread out past our town to national info for buying property! Many people are second guessing whether they want to be in an area without adequate coverage for fires, medical emergencies, etc. With all the disasters happening this year, this is a major concern for those who are exploring to live in more remote areas. When the amount of residents increase, so does the contribution to maintaining their town. I am sure the appropriate funds can be obtained to make this a more stable situation.
Thank you for not shutting us down completely.

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