A two-year battle between Gilbert officials and county islands residents is poised to be resolved this year as town officials extend a hand to begin negotiating toward providing fire service to county islands.
The reason: The town feels forced by a new state law.
“The bind we’re in, because of the way the legislation was written, is if we don’t bid on it, we’re mandated,” Mayor Steve Berman said. “If we bid on it, we can offer it for the price we think the cost is.”
The Gilbert Town Council voted Tuesday 5-0 to have town staff begin the process of bidding to provide fire protection to county islands residents living on fewer than 1,400 lots.
The council has fought against providing the coverage in the past, citing concerns about spending taxpayer dollars on people who don’t want to be residents.
The council even filed and won a lawsuit against a law mandating they provide the coverage two years ago.
But council members said they agree that bidding is the best route under the most recent law allowing unincorporated residents to form a fire district.
The county islands are spread out around the town, so a law passed during the last legislative session was needed to allow nontouching islands to form a district.
Those residents were left without the option to subscribe to fire service when the private Rural/Metro Fire Department quit serving the area Oct. 1, 2006.
It is unknown the amount of property taxes that would be assessed to county islands residents to pay for fire service in the new district.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved the formation of a county islands fire board in December.
The district becomes effective Jan. 18. The town has 21 days to alert the county islands fire board that they want to negotiate.
If the town does not bid, the three-member fire board will seek outside bidders.
If that fails, the town, under the law, will be required to provide the coverage.
For more information about the Gilbert County Islands Fire District, visit http://gilbertcifd.com.