Mesa’s fire chief is taking his case for increased funding for the fire department directly to the people, targeting civic groups, large homeowners associations and anyone else who will listen.
“I’m not trying to create a panic,” Chief Harry Beck said Thursday in an interview with the Tribune’s editorial board. “I’m trying to create concern.”
Mesa’s fire services are “in pretty good shape right now,” Beck said, but if the city doesn’t build more fire stations, buy more equipment and hire more firefighters, then response times will continue to climb.
Beck said average response times have climbed 27 seconds in the last two years to 3:56. The target response time is 4 minutes, which the department hits about 61 percent of the time.
Mesa’s exploding growth and high number of elderly residents and children per capita creates an additional strain on the department. Those are two populations that increase the call volume, Beck said.
Mesa doesn’t collect a property tax, and city voters turned one down in May that would have gone partly to public safety. The City Council has recently broached the idea of another property tax ballot measure, except this time it would be linked to a multimillion-dollar bond package.
Even though Mesa is expanding east, the department’s priority is to build two new fire stations on the west side, where population density has increased the demand for service from a station that is already the busiest in the city, Beck said.