Scottsdale votes down city-run fire department
Lesley Wright and Kristen Go
The Arizona Republic
May. 21, 2003 12:00 AM

SCOTTSDALE - Scottsdale voters shied away from a potentially expensive change Tuesday, soundly defeating two ballot measures that would have ended a 52-year run of contracting fire protection service with the private Rural/Metro Corp.

A long list of current and former Scottsdale leaders joined Rural/Metro and anti-tax activists to defeat by a nearly 2-1 ratio the measures, which would have established a city-run fire department.

As a result, the West's Most Western Town will remain the largest city in the nation that relies on a private firm for fire protection.

Mayor Mary Manross and Councilman Wayne Ecton were among the Scottsdale officials who celebrated with Rural/Metro officials when the election returns were announced.

"I don't see this in terms of winning or losing, but rather as a mandate for us to get together and work with firefighters," said Kurt Krumperman, emergency services group president for Rural/Metro.

Meanwhile, with the votes in, a stunned silence fell over what had been a raucous crowd of nearly 200 firefighters and their families at a downtown Scottsdale hotel.

Firefighter union leaders pledged to try again in the future, saying they have begun to bring issues to light.

"We gave them a wake-up call," said local union President Steve Springborn. "This was just one battle lost, but the war is not over."

Proposition 200 would have mandated the creation of a city-run fire department. Proposition 201, a companion measure, would have outlined how the new department would have been organized and would have given first hiring priority to current Rural/Metro firefighters.

Firefighters started their campaign more than a year ago, when a consultant report gave them the ammunition they needed to take on Rural/Metro. The report found that the private company could not reach half the city's territory within the standard four-minute response time.

The city since has opened new fire stations to help Rural/Metro reduce response times.