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1:23 AM Sun, Feb. 17th

Golden Valley fire chief: Money's tight, but financials are solid

Golden Valley Fire District Chief Tom O’Donohue speaks to a town hall meeting last week.

Golden Valley Fire District Chief Tom O’Donohue speaks to a town hall meeting last week.

KINGMAN - Golden Valley Fire Chief Thomas O'Donohue tried to calm some of the fears residents might have about the department's finances at a Thursday evening town hall meeting.

O'Donohue said that district finances are tight and that the board is doing everything it can to keep the tax rate down, but the district is not even close to the trouble that Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District found itself in at the beginning of the year.

"The board is watching every dime. We are watching your money very carefully," O'Donohue said. "But the district can't rely on just taxes. We need around $2 million to run this district."

That number has sent O'Donohue out to knock on some big doors outside of the district, such as Arizona State Prison-Kingman, to ask if they want fire services.

This has netted the district more than $859,000 in yearly contracts with Nucor Steel, Griffith Energy, Black Mountain Energy and the company that runs the wind turbines in the hills behind the steel plant, he said.

The district's $120,000 annual contract with the Arizona State Prison includes an additional $240,000 in in-kind services provided by inmates.

The in-kind services from that contract helped cut the cost of building the new fire station on Bacobi Road, O'Donohue said.

The new 12,000-square-foot station will replace the 4,369-square-foot station on Meyer Road that was built in 1979. The new station will cost around $526,000.

O'Donohue estimated that it would have cost the district around $27 per worker per hour to hire a professional contractor. Instead, the district pays approximately 50 cents an hour for each inmate working on the project, and the inmates learn new skills that will help them get jobs once they finish their sentences, he said.

"I have a lot of professionals dressed in prison orange working out there," he said.

The district also cut the cost of construction by going with a steel building, adding skylights and solar tubes to provide lighting during the day and double insulation in the walls to reduce heating and cooling costs, O'Donohue said.

"It's not fashionable, but it is functional," he said. "During the day, there's so much light in there that you don't have to turn on a light."

The district also signed on to a national wildfire-fighting program that sends the district's firefighters and equipment to places all over the nation, O'Donohue said. It also provides replacement firefighters and equipment to cover the district, pays for the cost for Golden Valley firefighters and equipment to respond and gives the district an additional $7,000.

The district also bills for calls outside of its boundaries, including accidents on U.S. 93 and Interstate 40. In addition, it has has a firefighting and paramedic academy that O'Donohue plans to get national accreditation for.

One resident asked about the fire district's application for a certificate of necessity for an ambulance service.

This was another way to bring down costs in the district, O'Donohue said. The district already has the paramedics, buildings and supplies to run an ambulance district and it can provide better coverage that what Golden Valley currently has.

"It will more than pay for itself. About 4 percent of our calls are fire-related," he said.

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