Scottsdale voters Tuesday doused a pair of initiatives to create a municipal fire department, instead opting to maintain the city’s 52-year relationship with Rural/Metro Corp.
Unofficial results show Proposition 200, which would have created a municipal fire department within six months, received a 63.6 percent no vote and a 36.3 percent yes vote.
Proposition 201, which would have established a city fire department with no timeline attached and mandated staffing changes, fell 63.7 percent to 36.2 percent.
Of the 31,923 ballots cast, or 28.2 percent of the city's 113,092 registered voters, participated in Tuesday’s special election.
While firefighters who gathered to watch election results at Summerfield Suites said they were surprised by the outcome, Rural/Metro's top fire executive offered only a brief message: It's time to move on.
Kurt Krumperman, president of the company's fire and emergency services group, who attended a gathering at a resident's home, said, "I don't think it's a victory for Rural/Metro. I think it's a recognition that we have been providing good service, and the community wants to give us the opportunity to work out the issues with our firefighters.
"We have to reach some harmony and work together and put this behind us and serve the city of Scottsdale,” he said.
Meanwhile, firefighters said they are not walking away from the experience empty-handed. They said they now have public awareness on their side.
“We knew it was going to be a dead heat. We knew it was going to be close. It was disappointing. But, there's nothing but good that's going to come out of it. The citizens realize that these guys don't have a pension. They realize, I think, that they need a municipal fire department. It's not going to happen in six months,” said Scottsdale resident Rich Woerth, chairman for the Committee to Protect Scottsdale and Our Firefighters.
Steve Springborn, president of the local fire union, said his group's cause garnered tremendous support.
"The biggest problem is it's all a matter of who comes out to vote,” Springborn said. "I don't know of anything we could have done differently. I think we put everything we could have into it. I think the economy is what created the problem.”
Firefighters worked throughout the campaign, walking door-to-door, attending countless City Council meetings and fire debates and even by camping out at polling locations Tuesday.
"There's 30 polling places and we have people at all of them,” said Jeff Perry, a Rural/Metro fire captain in Scottsdale.
The firefighters’ campaign strategies worked for some residents.
"They've all told me they're for it. To me it's a no-brainer. If all your employees are unhappy with their employer, that's got to tell you something,” said resident Ron Dutcher.
Others who voted “no” said they had good reason.
"The city can't afford it. We're broke,” said voter Margaret Fox.
Gordon Roberson, who said he moved to Scottsdale in 1972, couldn't remember any complaints about Rural/Metro. "I'm reluctant to make a change when I don't see a need for it,” he said.