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Phoenix voters embrace Fire District 5

PHOENIX — Fire district members and city residents voted by an overwhelming majority in Tuesday's election to expand Fire District 5 boundaries to include the city.

Three dozen residents, city officials and firefighters gathered at Angelo's Pizza Tuesday night to watch election results on a laptop.

Turnout hovered at just over 35 percent Monday and Tuesday for three measures in the special election though nearly half the 2,566 registered voters in Phoenix cast ballots, for a total of 1,257; 1,224 voted yes while 33 opposed the annexation.

Councilman Gary Reed, who spearheaded an education campaign on the annexation, said contracting with the district for a "test drive" since October gave residents a feel for service levels and day-to-day operations with the district. Reed said he was "absolutely thrilled" with Tuesday's vote, noting "The numbers were so overwhelmingly in favor there wasn't room for any doubt."

District 5 Fire Chief Dan Marshall said the existing contract and efforts by city officials to educate residents helped the district and the city in Tuesday's election.

"What happens now is we get to keep Phoenix firefighters working, the station stays open and we continue to improve service levels for the city and the district," said Marshall.

Firefighter Aaron Bustard, who has been with the city for four years, and trained with District 5 as a new recruit, said he was relieved for the job security of the city falling under district protection.

The city will permanently become part of the district, which formed in the 1963, on July 1 with city firefighters and volunteers maintaining their positions.

"I'm really excited. We'll be able to maintain staffing, keep the level of service and improve on it and not worry about five-year levies," he said.

"It's good for the citizens of Phoenix and for us."

All told, an existing $2.85 levy will go away and residents will begin paying the district's $3.19 (per $1,000) rate. Had residents opposed the annexation, the city had considered rates that figured at $4.50 (per $1,000) or higher to run its own city fire department.

An additional ballot measure seeking voter approval to dissolve a shrinking Kings Highway water district passed 77-8.