Maricopa City Council approved a transfer from the city’s contingency fund Tuesday to pay for a fire preplan for as many as 96 commercial buildings around the city.
The $48,000 expense will bring Maricopa in line with other fire departments in the Phoenix metro area in better preparing firefighters responding to major fires in the city.
“Right now, when people come in, as well as our own commanders, they come in blind,” Maricopa Fire Chief Brady Leffler said.
The preplanning, he said, creates multiple maps that both MFMD commanders and outside emergency personnel can view when responding to fires. The maps contain locational information about hydrant, sprinklers, electrical breakers and gas shutoffs.
This information, he said, is lacking for almost all the city’s major buildings, public and private.
“Currently we don’t have any [preplans],” Leffler said. “We don’t have anything for [city hall], Copper Sky [has] nothing, the schools [have] nothing.”
MFMD recognized the need for such a plan roughly two years ago, Leffler said. And at that time the department tried to do the preplanning themselves, however due to the complex nature of the planning, he said, they “failed miserably.”
“This is very technical, it involves the Phoenix [computer aided dispatch], and it also involves [geographic information system],” he said. “We tried doing hand drawings, we tried everything, so we reached out to people that do this for a living.”
The city is part of an automatic aid consortium Leffler said calls upon in the event of an exceptionally large incident or if MFMD is occupied, thus making this fire preplan essential.
Councilmember Henry Wade expressed concern about the burden of providing such information, asking if it should be up to the owner or occupant of a building to pay for such a plan.
In response, Leffler said the city currently does ask for certain information from developers, but the information lacks certain details and is never uploaded to Phoenix regional dispatch system for other departments to access.
The initial $48,000 of the contract with Phoenix based company, The Preplanners, would be spent to create the necessary documents for 96 buildings around the city. An additional reoccurring $5,000 annual fee would be attached to the contract should the city decide to retain the company services to create additional fire preplans as the city grows.
Though not opposed to the idea of budgeting for a fire preplan, the $5,000 reoccurring fee is where councilmember Nancy Smith expressed concern.
“Here we are almost in March, we are going to be approving a brand-new budget in June and if this is part of that approved budget, at that point, then we move forward,” Smith said. “And what I’ve lost is three months, but what we’ve gained is clarity in terms of the other must-have [expenses].”
The “must haves” she spoke of were the many similar, seemingly “crucial” expenses council sees requests for each budget cycle. And considering the reoccurring $5,000 expense, she said the matter should not rely on contingency funds.
In the end, council approved the measure 6-1, Smith voting against.