The August 4th of this year edition of the Connection contained a letter filled with contradictory statements of dubious veracity (to put it mildly) and a vituperative torrent of hatred towards the Heber Overgaard Fire District. Because I have grown weary of rebutting to this type of juvenile ranting, I just decided to let it go.
However, there is an election coming up Nov. 2nd. I have a case to make so here goes.
The author of this amazing letter at least had the courage to sign her name. All the rest of the Committee of Concerned Citizens have always cowered under the cloak of anonymity even though their support of this group has been obvious from their statements at Fire District board meetings.
Couple of years ago, after a spat in print I agreed, on a handshake, not to use the author’s name in print again. The author is the Chief of the Concerned Citizens Committee (whatever) or C3. That would make the author C4 for the sake of brevity. Any connection with the highly dangerous plastic explosive is purely accidental. I think.
Trying to keep this brief, C4’s diatribe was so wild I will paraphrase. A total of one and a half million dollars surplus cash sat on by the Fire District. Really? The only “surplus” money was $300 000 which was money budgeted for but not spent as in “not spent” on replacing the Deputy Chief, “not spent” on replacing the Chief, foregoing a new ambulance etc. This $300k was used to pay off capital on the new facility and in the process, saved us the taxpayers $95 000 in interest that the bank did not get. Another $300k is kept aside (and replaced) every year for the four lean months when there is no money coming in from County. If not for this there would have to be a loan from the bank and, you guessed it, interest paid on the loan. The H/O Department is the only one on the Mountain to do this and avoid going into the red. This is bad? Finally there is $160k that is marked for the Capital Projects Fund for replacement of equipment in future so that the tax levy does not have to be bumped up sharply to pay for such expenses. This is known to some as planning! There’s more, please go check this for yourself. The Fire District books are open to us all. Contrary to C4’s accusations there is nothing hidden. If C4 did the budget for 12 years (I thought the Chief did this?) then I’m glad I was not here!
The incensed statement that the budget presented/demanded by C4 half an hour before the Board meeting which was set to discuss the officially presented budget from Acting Chief King, was rejected as “foolish” is flat wrong. What Chief King said on record was that it would be foolish to accept a budget from a member of the public with only 30 minutes notice. C4 is not an elected member of the Board and does not have the right to demand anything. The First Amendment gives us the right to talk, not to order.
Outrage by the professional members of the Fire Department over their compensation? There is no outrage that I have ever heard. Until recently I was a volunteer and was around the members of the Department all the time. I heard no outrage. Should they be paid a salary comparable with other Fire Departments? Prescott recently offered a package of $82k. You make the call. I am glad the C4 thinks the Department is appreciated “like teachers, cops, road crews, janitors, babysitters, 4th of July workers, business owners and C3s who work late nights to provide information” etc., etc. Medics and the like have worked many years and hours to obtain the education they have. Second only (maybe) to teachers. Even a lowly First Responder like myself had a 64 hour intensive class schedule followed by practical and written exams with re-certification every two years. What a slap in the face to dedicated men and women who, in any case, are not on call 24/7 365. I have, however, frequently seen them respond from their homes when they hear the radio go. Then there is the hysteria about “double dipping” when our people work for other Fire Departments during their off days. Double Dipping? They get no benefits from other Departments and besides they can do as they please on their own time. Just what does C4 think our invaluable Reserves are doing? The Department could not function without them. Are they Double Dipping? The local H/O employees who step up to fill in are paid overtime by the way. Contradictory, hate filled, garbage!
All the “hard work” on their budget by C3 with C4 at the helm was uninvited. They invited themselves into the process. There is nothing that I can find that says their word is law. They demanded, and got, budget workshops at which C4 held sway. I was there, I saw it. All. They were listened to. First Amendment, again.
Yes I thank L.Parham, R.Owens and M. Hall for their input. The snide little slap at R.C. Snow and Gene Hall is contemptible. However, I thank them all (Gene Hall was absent on vacation) for signing the Budget as presented by Chief King. There were NO “nays”!! The Board had previously, in many tedious sessions, thrashed out this budget. In my personal opinion they caved to the pressure of C3/C4 and made cuts for which we will pay later. I am allowed an opinion, right?
Now for the point of all this. There are two of C4’s acolytes running for Fire Board. By association and by statements, made in front of witnesses, Martnieau and Call stand with the agenda of C4. Martineau has shown, in front of witnesses, that he opposes the Fire Department as it stands. He has shown, in front of witnesses, that he cannot or will not read a budget. He attempted, in front of witnesses no less (!), to intimidate me by accusing me of slander. As far as I know, slander is “false accusation”. Nothing false about my statements or quoting him verbatim and I am not intimidated easily. Call, in front of a whole board meeting, declared that the Department has too much apparatus because “they say they short handed and so therefore cannot man it anyway” thereby displaying his utter lack of even basic understanding of how this Department works. In front of witnesses he has stated his anger at the $10 000 cost of repairing an engine pump. To a witness he has stated that a new replacement ambulance is not needed “because they don’t have drivers”. What?! More of the same. On top of all this Call has accused me (the undersigned), in front of a witness, of having written an email which is apparently derogatory towards him. Now that IS slander and I am pondering that.
If you were to remove the Fire Department, and thus the tax, entirely it would save me $12.50 per month. Formal dining out for two at Arby’s!!! Of course the District would lose it’s ISO rating and my insurance would increase by $1 500 or more a year. And if I needed an ambulance ride I’d have to pay. But, what the hey, the neighborhood would probably burn down anyway. WHO STANDS TO BENEFIT from the gutting of the Fire District? A look at Navajo County property ownership is very informative. Check it out on line!
Please, on November 2nd. Consider your vote carefully. Vote for maturity with no hidden agenda. Vote for people with a long, proven track record in successful budget management. People who will ensure that our tax money is spent wisely both for us and for the Department. I implore you to consider Larry Dunagan and Gerd Kurtenbach . These are two people who have the experience and the honest courage to take our Fire District into the future with no private agenda, no axe to grind.