Consolidation possible for two Mohave County fire districts

KINGMAN - The Mohave County Board of Supervisors took no action Monday regarding consolidation of the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District with Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District, a move that has been contemplated since Lake Mohave Ranchos fell into debt a few years ago.

Supervisor Buster Johnson said he hasn't seen a monthly report from Lake Mohave Ranchos since March, and he wanted to know what would happen if Northern Arizona Consolidated doesn't approve consolidation.

The governing board of NACFD will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday at Station 31, 2485 Northern Ave., to discuss the matter.

If the NACFD district board decides to move forward, a public hearing date would be set and the vote would probably be 60 days to 90 days away, said John Flynn, who was appointed administrator of Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District in 2013.

If consolidation is denied, the option is to maintain the status quo and prepare for either a special election of a five-person board for Lake Mohave Ranchos or wait until the 2016 elections, Flynn said.

There is a process to dissolve the district, he added, but it would be up to property owners to petition for dissolution, and the Board of Supervisors would then set hearing dates.

Flynn had a target date of 24 months to mitigate the district's financial insolvency, and said the district is actually $50,000 in the black as of July 1.

The district has a total budget of $1.1 million for 2016, funded by the maximum $3.25 property tax rate. However, property tax delinquency in the area amounts to about $104,000, Flynn noted.

Rebecca Smith, a 10-year resident of Dolan Springs, said people in the Lake Mohave Ranchos fire district have not had an opportunity to compile adequate information.

"We should have been planning a year ago," she said. "We realize time is a factor. This is perhaps the most important issue of the town since I moved there."

Donna Wickerd said the vast majority of people in Dolan Springs were not aware the time had come for the decision, and she wanted to see a "concrete" proposal for staffing.

Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District currently staffs two full-time firefighters in Dolan Springs and one in Meadview, and operates one ambulance. It's the only medical service covering about 2,000 square miles in Dolan Springs, Meadview and Lake Mead City, Flynn said.

Supervisor Jean Bishop said consolidating fire districts is a way to provide service, but it can sometimes cost more and result in less service. She saw that happen in Chloride.

Board Chairman Steve Moss commended Flynn for doing a good job getting Lake Mohave Ranchos out of financial trouble. The fire district was 30 days behind on employees' pay and owed $437,000 on a revolving credit line with Wells Fargo when Flynn was appointed.

Moss asked why the current situation couldn't continue for six months to a year, and Flynn said that could be the route to go if NACFD decides not to consolidate.

The item will be brought back to the Board of Supervisors in 30 days.