Full merger at Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority?

Terry Keller, Fire Chief, Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority

Terry Keller, Fire Chief, Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority

VERDE VALLEY – Eric Strauss remembers what it was like before the Camp Verde and Montezuma-Rimrock fire districts signed a Joint Powers Agreement two years ago to serve as one entity, the Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority.

With 20 years on the job, Strauss, remembers the days when Camp Verde “ran two or three calls a week.”

Nowadays, the Camp Verde station is “currently running on average about 15 calls a day.”

“Though the Rimrock station doesn’t run as many calls, they continue to get busier week by week,” says Strauss, battalion chief with the Copper Canyon Fire & Medical Authority, a partnership of the Camp Verde and Montezuma-Rimrock fire districts since 2016.

Strauss states that Camp Verde’s Station 81 is “one of the busiest houses/engine companies in the Verde Valley.

“Coupled with one of the largest CON coverage areas in the Verde Valley, it at times can be challenging to cover multiple calls at the same time,” he says. “For this alone, I believe that the JPA was a great idea.”

Stronger, safer

For Dale Duns, who started with Montezuma-Rimrock nearly 15 years ago, the partnership makes the firefighters “stronger, safer, and provide even a better service to our great communities.”

“Working with our neighbors has built a bond that provides exceptional service,” says Duns, also a battalion chief with the Copper Canyon Fire & Medical Authority.

This week, the governing boards of the Camp Verde and Montezuma-Rimrock fire districts will each hold public hearings to consider an official merger of the two districts, in effect permanizing Copper Canyon and dissolving the Camp Verde and Montezuma-Rimrock fire districts.

Holding these public hearings is next step in the Camp Verde and Montezuma-Rimrock fire district governing boards’ Aug. 16 decision to consider a permanent partnership.

A merger, which according to Copper Canyon Fire Chief Terry Keller, is akin to being on the “threshold of marriage.”

‘Threshold of marriage’

It was like a courtship of sorts, as Keller describes it, the process of taking the two separate fire districts, creating the agreement, and working together as one.

Except with separate governing boards.

To be specific, there are actually three governing boards, one is the Copper Canyon governing board, and the others are the individual Camp Verde and Montezuma-Rimrock fire boards.

Keller says that with the JPA – Joint Powers Agreement – that the Copper Canyon Fire & Medical Authority really is one unit.

“We already are Copper Canyon,” Keller says. An official merger is “just clearing up.”

“This makes us much more operationally efficient,” he says.

The Joint Powers Agreement, Keller says, has afforded the partnering fire districts “efficiencies and training under the same standards to work more effectively and more efficiently.”

And with three battalion chiefs – Strauss, Duns and Steve Sarkesian – to “guarantee 24-hour coverage,” Keller says.

“We were able to cut back on the administration to put more people on the line,” Keller says.

When and where

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, the Camp Verde Fire District Governing Board will present pros and cons of the proposed merger of the districts, and to solicit public opinion on the matter.

The CVFD meeting will be held at the Camp Verde Unified School District’s cafeteria, across from the Phillip England Center for the Performing Arts. Address is 280 Camp Lincoln Road.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, the Montezuma-Rimrock Fire District Governing Board will present pros and cons of the proposed merger of the districts, and to solicit public opinion on the matter.

The MRFD meeting will be held at Beaver Creek School District’s cafeteria, address is 4810 E. Beaver Creek Road.

Keller says that he “would hope that Camp Verde folks would also attend the Montezuma-Rimrock meeting and vice versa.”

What they’re saying about the Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority

“I have nothing but positive things to say about the JPA and, I believe the merger will even make us more efficient.”

-- Dale Duns, battalion chief, Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority

“We have worked under the JPA for two years and I feel that is working well in most ways, but is very cumbersome to function smoothly. I don’t think either wants to return to a lower level of service. Neither [Camp Verde nor Montezuma-Rimrock] could support the quality of service we are receiving [as Copper Canyon].”

-- Carol Keeton, Copper Canyon board clerk, Montezuma-Rimrock board president

“At this time the obstacles to merging no longer exist. I believe merging is in the best interests of the two districts and the public we serve; it will save taxpayer dollars to improve our service to all of our customers.”

-- George Kleindienst, CCFMA/CVFD board president

“With the JPA, we have been able to move personnel to different stations to upgrade the man power situations for those stations. Before the JPA, The Montezuma-Rimrock station was running a two-man engine company. The industry standard is three- to four-man engine companies. With the JPA, Copper Canyon was able to up the manning to a three-man engine company for the Montezuma-Rimrock station, thus making every day a safer situation for all involved.”

-- Eric Strauss, battalion chief, Copper Canyon Fire & Medical Authority

An official merger of the Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority would “cement what we’ve already done.”

-- Terry Keller, fire chief, Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority

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