As the city’s police and fire departments grapple with growing response times and too few resources to handle a quickly expanding population, Phoenix residents will vote on General Obligation Bond, or GO Bond, this November and decide whether first responders will receive funds to renovate and expand their infrastructure.
The 2023 GO Bond Program is the city’s first bond program since 2006, when Phoenix voted yes on a $878.5 million bond that reinvigorated the downtown area with the creation of the Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus.
If all four bond questions are passed during the November special election, the city will issue bonds to pay for the projects in the GO Bond Executive Committee’s report to city council and the mayor – totaling $500 million across the areas of public safety, parks and recreation, arts and culture, housing and human services, infrastructure and economic development.
Question one of the bond measure involves enhancing “community safety through fire, police, roadway and pedestrian Infrastructure,” according to the City of Phoenix website. First responder unions and business and community leaders have thrown their support behind the GO Bond.
Phoenix Fire Department
The executive committee’s recommendation to city council allocates over $80 million for the Phoenix Fire Department (PFD). The proposed projects would add community assistance facilities to existing stations and create a new fire station in north Phoenix.
Tim Knobbe, the United Phoenix Firefighters Local 493 vice president of political affairs, said the union was asking for monies for eight fire stations in the lead up to the executive committee recommendations to City Council, which ended up only including allocations for four fire stations.
“Obviously, we wanted more fire stations in the beginning,” he said. “But (it is) just not financially feasible at this time. So we were still supportive of the bond.”
Local 493 supports the bond “100%,” according to Knobbe.
Three of the seven public safety line items in the executive committees recommendations to city council are for the PFD Community Assistance Program (CAP), totaling over $60 million across three existing fire stations.
“CAP units are staffed by folks who are specifically trained in mental health issues and treating those with with those kinds of things that affect homelessness and people on the street,” Knobbe said. The CAP units “will help that community much more than a fire truck with paramedics and EMTs on it.”
According to the city website, the CAP “is committed to providing the highest level of on scene crisis intervention, victim advocacy/services, and behavioral health assistance for (the) community.”
In previous years, the mayor and city council have approved over $20 million for the CAP, but if passed, the GO Bond will give PFD the ability to provide the CAP its own buildings and resources as they currently share many facilities across the department, according to the executive committee report.
Within the potential projects to commence if question one of the bond passes is the construction of a new fire station, PFD Station 51. The new station would be built along the Loop 303 and 51st Avenue and retrofitted to accommodate a growing industrial corridor.
“What (will make) that fire station unique is it will house a hazmat unit as well as a ladder truck, a fire engine and an ambulance and also a battalion chief,” Knobbe said, speaking to the complex needs of large technological manufacturing companies that have built facilities in the north Phoenix area, like the $40 billion Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company plant.
Additionally, stakeholders and city officials recommended a new station be built in the area to ease the strain of fire department resources which are often stretched thin in the northern part of Phoenix.
City Councilwoman Ann O’Brien, who represents council district 1 and the northwest part of the city, said aside from ensuring the development of industrial centers and subsequent housing developments in the area, a new fire station is needed to bolster the fire department’s current ability to respond to calls.
“Because of the landscape in north Phoenix and all the state trust land and how the roads are built and the different hills and mountains, we already have a little bit of a struggle getting fire trucks and emergency services to some areas just because (there are) people over a lot more area than say in downtown or the central district,” O’Brien said.
“When you add the fact that TSMC is being built, not only are we now going to have a huge manufacturing chip plant and many of their suppliers in the area, it’s also going to be bringing approximately 10,000 new residential doors to the area over the years,” the councilwoman added.
Phoenix Police Department
If the first question of the bond measure passes in November, PPD will see an infusion of nearly $50 million to replace the Cactus Park precinct and renovate the Maryvale precinct and the PPD property management warehouse.
President of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) Darrell Kriplean said the organization is “in support of this general obligation bond” because it addresses the problems faced by older precincts in need of refurbishing.
“I was assigned to the (Maryvale) precinct back in 1994, and it was five years old at the time, and there has been virtually no substantial rehab remodeling to that precinct,” Kriplean said. “It’s in disrepair.”
The executive committee’s report allocates just under $3 million for the Maryvale precinct renovation, with about 60% of the total spent in fiscal year 2024-2025 and the remaining to be spent in fiscal year 2025-2026.
The Cactus Park precinct is older than the Maryvale precinct, and its location off 39th Avenue and West Cactus Road is only one block east of the Phoenix-Glendale border.
Over $37 million will be allocated to the new Cactus Park precinct, which will combine with the department’s northern command station at a new location to be determined if the bond measure passes.
“The plan is to build a combined facility that’s more centrally located within the Cactus Park precinct (area) to be able to provide quicker and better service for the community,” Kriplean said. As it stands now, the northern command station and the Cactus Park precinct are located 8 miles apart.
Because of the distance, “it just takes longer for officers when they’re leaving to get to their beat areas. And at the same time, the other shift is coming in. So you’ve got a lapse, you know, where there’s coverage,” Kriplean said.
Ballot-by-mail begins this week for the special election, and voters have until 7 p.m. on Nov. 7 to cast their ballots.