Frustrations boil over at Foothills meeting
In the end, most don't want to make changes
A meeting sponsored by the Foothills Fire and Rescue Committee drew more than 300 concerned residents of the unincorporated area just east of the city of Yuma to discuss various options being considered for future governance of the area.
It was clear the residents had a lot to say and considerable pent up frustration with the issues plaguing the area, primarily their dissatisfaction with the private provider of their water and service. A few also had some things to say about the cost of their fire and rescue service.
One man, though, spoke highly of the service he's received from Rural/Metro Ambulance. “I think they're doing a fine job.”
But when it came time to decide whether to move forward with one of the options on the table, residents overwhelmingly indicated they wanted things to remain the same. As Bob Tallman, who chaired the meeting, expressed it — “do nothing and manage by crisis.”
Only a few people raised their hands in support of seeking annexation by the city of Yuma. Even fewer were interested in the area pursing incorporation, or becoming self-governing.
“I was stunned at the number of people who wanted to do nothing,” Tallman said.
That came after the committee has been meeting for a year to explore various options and solutions to the issues facing the Foothills area. Thursday's meeting was the third public meeting held since November to educate the public and gauge the residents' interest in moving forward.
Even though most didn't want to either incorporate or seek annexation, they did want someone to carry the banner of their concerns to Far West Water and Sewer. And they thought that job should fall to Russ Clark, the new Yuma County supervisor for the district that includes the Foothills.
Clark said he would be willing to keep people informed. He also said he had already met with Paula Capestro, president of Far West, and her attorney husband, Andy. In 4 1/2 hours, he said, he asked numerous questions and was given a tour of the company's facilities.
“I'm not making any conclusions yet,” Clark said, but noted that he found the facilities to be modern, clean and run professionally by long-term dedicated employees. “I was surprised at how well the system is run.”
He also said he saw chemicals being added to the pumping system to keep down the smell. “There was no smell.”
Several in the audience disputed that, saying the system does still smell and Far West is unresponsive to their complaints.
To that, Clark pledged to visit their homes and address their issues.
During the meeting, some residents had questions on how annexation would impact them.
City Administrator Greg Wilkinson assured them that the city has no intention of forcing annexation — it would have to be sought by the residents. He said it would require the approval of 50 percent plus one person of the population and 50 percent plus $1 dollar of the total property value.
He noted that it would be cheaper for them to live in the city than the county, even though their property taxes would go up. That's because the increase would be more than offset by the savings in fees for fire and emergency services they're now paying to Rural/Metro. There's also such issues as street improvements and parks.
“The city is set up to manage urban areas more efficiently,” he said.
Wilkinson also stressed that if the area were to be annexed, existing property would be grandfathered and those with septic systems would be able to continue using them rather than connecting to city sewer. “There's septic tanks all over the city now,” he said.