Letter from Chief Meek

‘Public Safety Bond is About Ensuring Resident Needs are Met’

The Fire & Rescue Department’s motto is ‘Protecting Your Family.’  For more than 20 years, it has been my honor and privilege to help carry out this task along with many others.

Over the years, and now as your Fire Chief, I have seen the community grow rapidly. As a result, Rio Rancho and its public safety departments have faced challenges to keep up with resident needs.  Central to these challenges has been the consistent availability of necessary funding for emergency response vehicle replacement such as ambulances and fire engines.

This has been the case because vehicles are expensive (one ladder truck is approximately $1 million) and Rio Rancho is behind other communities of comparable size in the state related to available resources (tens of millions of dollars each year). This stems from the fact that Rio Rancho’s primary funding source is the tax on the sale of goods and services, and we have historically had an imbalance in terms of homes as compared to businesses.

So what has been done over time to have fire and emergency medical vehicles ready to meet service calls related to your health, safety, and property protection?  We have stretched the limits of how long vehicles are utilized, borrowed, and have relied on special, unpredictable one-time revenue sources.  This is illustrated by the fact we now have firefighter/EMTs that are younger in age than the vehicles they may have to use for a service call.

Unfortunately, we have reached a point where if we stretch the proverbial rubber band any further in terms of vehicles, there is a high probability it will snap.  What this means to you is less and less reliable fire and emergency response vehicles to bring help.

If voters approve the $4.1 million Public Safety Bond question on the March 6 ballot, funding, which is not going to be available through others means, would be used to replace a fire engine, ladder truck, ambulance, water truck, breathing equipment, and needed police vehicles.  Approval of this bond would result in a small property tax increase ($25 for a $100,000 home), which would still leave our property taxes well below those of Albuquerque.  

If the bond is not approved and the city cannot acquire replacement vehicles in the near future, it’s almost guaranteed that our rating for public fire protection capability will decrease.  If this occurs, the insurance rates we pay related to our homes and businesses will very likely increase.  So it becomes a matter of deciding on whether you want to pay a little more in property taxes to replace emergency vehicles or pay more to insurance companies and still have vehicles that need to be replaced.

I hope you will think about this bond and request as an investment related to your safety.  If the bond is approved, please remember these vehicles are the property of the people of Rio Rancho whose sole purpose is to respond to your needs.

Visit rrnm.gov/2018election for additional information about the March 6 election.

Michael Meek, Rio Rancho Fire & Rescue Chief