November 27, 2004

Gilbert plans to stop providing emergency police and fire services to Maricopa County island residents next year.

The decision was prompted by Gilbert’s belief that Rural/Metro Corp. will no longer serve the unincorporated areas beginning in July, ending the agreement that compensates the town for emergency responses.

"At this point we’re not going to provide fire service to county islands," Mayor Steve Berman said.

Rural/Metro spokeswoman Randa Hightower said the company is discussing its partnership with Gilbert Fire Department.

Rural/Metro, a private company, sells subscriptions to county residents but responds to all calls. The Gilbert Fire Department, which is funded by the town, sometimes responds to county island emergencies.

Hightower said that as Maricopa County fine-tunes a recently passed law that would require the county by July to negotiate contracts for county island protection, Rural/Metro remains flexible, patient and cooperative with Gilbert as the town decides how to proceed.

"We currently have no plans to leave the county islands we serve in Gilbert," she said.

Gilbert Town Manager George Pettit, in an Oct. 29 letter to the Arizona Department of Real Estate, wrote "of particular concern to Gilbert is information that Rural/ Metro will not be providing fire protection service within the Gilbert area after July, 2005."

Pettit said the letter — which has been posted on the state agency’s Web site — was written to make real estate agents and insurance companies aware that residents buying into the county islands are not guaranteed Gilbert emergency services.

"We need to make sure people are making an informed choice," Pettit said.

Money is the main reason the Town Council decided to move in this direction.

Gilbert receives a portion of its funding from stateshared revenue, which is based on population. County island residents in the Gilbert planning area are not included in the population total. Gilbert also charges system development, or impact, fees for each new home built within town limits. These fees do not apply to county island homes. A portion of the impact fees pays for fire stations and equipment.

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