Local News

Tusayan Fire District Seeks Emergency Help

March 1, 2015

 The Tusayan Fire District has rescued has rescued thousands of people. Now the District needs rescuing. Lower property tax revenues, increased demand, and uncompensated services have all led to budget shortfalls.

On top of that, Fire Chief Bobby Evans is retiring in September. Given the number of hours he traditionally works, it is not an exaggeration to say it may take two people to replace him.

In fact it takes as many as seven people to staff a fire district that provides 24/7 service. The Tusayan Fire district has not missed a call in the 16 years Evans has been chief.

That’s why the Town of Tusayan and the Tusayan Fire District held a joint meeting in February. The District is seeking $400,000 a year from the town of Tusayan. The cash is there. The town collects millions in sales tax revenues, mostly from tourists.

Councilman Al Montoya, while expressing support for the District is worried about the cost, “Seven positions. That’s more than the whole Town has.”

One of the major problems facing the district is uncompensated services. Valle does not have a fire department but when there is an emergency, the Tusayan Fire District responds. The Airport has its own fire department, but if there is an after hors call for medical assistance or a fire at a building on airport property, the 911 call goes to the Tusayan Fire District.

Then there are the countless medical calls on the highway. Fire Board member John Vail said, We have had a hard time recouping medical bills.”

The District is having a hard time paying its basic bills. Fire District Board member Ann Wren said, “I have a chief and a co-chief scrambling to pay the bills that should not be on their shoulders.”

Montoya remains concerned, “I am not saying no but what you are asking for is 16% to 18% of what we expend. That’s a significant expectation.”

Wren said she understands Montoya’s concerns and as a business owner understands that there needs to be barriers and boundaries with respect to the budget.

The council did not make a final decision, but the Fire Board is hopeful there can be some sort of resolution to the Fire District’s situation. Fire Board member John Vail said, “We have been running on a shoestring budget, I’d like to know how to operate otherwise.”