In a special election set for May 20, 2003, Scottsdale voters will determine whether the city should create a publicly run, municipal fire department, or continue its contract with Rural/Metro Corporation, the private company that has provided Scottsdale's fire service since 1951.
Critics of Rural/Metro argue that the company has not providing adequately for the safety of either Scottsdale residents or its fire crews. Critics further argue that a municipal fire department could provide fire service for less money than Rural/Metro, enroll in the Automatic Aid system used by 19 other valley cities, and make firefighters eligible for state and federal pension systems. In response, Rural/Metro argues that voters are being misled about its performance and the purported advantages of a city fire department.
In reviewing the facts of the controversy, this report finds that Rural/Metro has provided high quality fire service equal to or better than Scottsdale's service expectations. There is no reason to believe a city department could do the job more effectively or less expensively. Combined first-year operating and transition costs for a city department are estimated to exceed those of Rural-Metro by $2 million to $7 million.
By voting for a city department, Scottsdale would risk creating a permanent government monopoly that would not be subject to periodic review, as is Rural/Metro. Creating a city department would also preclude the city from establishing a competitive bidding process.
This report urges Scottsdale voters to retain the services of Rural/Metro for the present. Likewise, Scottsdale's mayor and city council should make careful decisions about adopting any service changes from the recommendations of the Scottsdale Fire and Emergency Services Committee. The city of Scottsdale should also set up a competitive bidding process to establish which entity can provide the desired fire services at the lowest cost. The bidding should be open to backers of a city department, Rural/Metro, and any other qualified private fire companies.