Gilbert taxpayers have made it clear in e-mails and in person that they don’t want to pay for fire service for county island homeowners who pay no taxes.
Yet, some Town Council members are resistent to the idea of not providing fire service to areas woven inside the town, that Rural/Metro Fire Department is struggling to service and will eventually abandon.
Three council members plan to begin a series of Monday subcommittee meetings in coming weeks to debate whether it’s feasible to charge for and provide emergency services to county residents who don’t want to be annexed in to the town but will need emergency services.
"There are strong opinions about not wanting to drain Gilbert," said Councilman Dave Crozier, a former Rural/Metro firefighter.
"We’re not going to please everybody," he said. "Some of the council members feel people should either annex or don’t get this service. But the reality is, some people would rather die before they’d annex."
His worst nightmare, he said, would be asking firefighters to not help a nearby county resident — or not help a Gilbert resident harmed in a crash in a nearby county island.
The issue is likely to come before the Legislature again this year, as Maricopa County has missed a state deadline for ensuring its residents have fire service agreements set up with nearby cities.
Rep. Bob Robson, RChandler, said if towns don’t come to agreements with the county by January he will propose an amendment to the law, to make it punitive to avoid. A law he sponsored two years ago required the county to come up with a solution to the impending problem.
"My belief is that when somebody picks up the phone and dials 911 for a lifesaving situation, they expect a response and the way things are currently, conceivably in some cases it would not happen," he said. "That would be a tragedy."
In the meantime, Rural/ Metro spokeswoman Alison Cooper said services will be provided. Gilbert has agreed to have firefighters respond to county islands if they are closer and bill Rural/Metro for the call.