Many concerned residents wearing signs of protest against the alternate route showed up at the Sedona Fire District Governing Baord meeting Wednesday, March22, 2006.

Numerous residents swarm meeting in organized protest

By Chelsea De Weese LARSON NEWSPAPERS

Activists on both sides of the alternate route debate came out in force Wednesday, March 22, when the Sedona Fire District's Governing Board accepted a newly issued report on the matter.

The report - based on the findings of Sedona-based land planning agency SEC Inc. - ferreted out the pros and cons of three possible route locations for a roadway to connect West Sedona to the Village of Oak Creek.

Of the three alternatives, a newly discovered possibility labeled Crescent Moon route in the report looked the most promising; this roadway would be located 1/4 mile upstream from Red Rock Crossing and would connect Verde Valley School and Chavez Ranch roads with a short segment of roadway and a bridge over Oak Creek.

This alternative would be instead of an upgrade at the existing low-water crossing at Red Rock Crossing or building a Back 0' Beyond Road extension across U.S. Forest Service lands.

"I was sUrprised to see there was an alternative route," said Sedona Fire District Fire Chief Matt Shobert. "I'm hopeful that maybe we found a collaborative alternative."

From the tone of the meeting, however, that looked unlikely.

Nearly 70 protesters of all ages filled the Sedona Fire District's meeting room Wednesday evening, wearing white paper signs taped to their chests, arms and backs.

Mostly, the signs read "No Bridge," although a few read "Your Study Wasted $lO,OOO.of Our Tax Money!"

A number of these audience members took advantage of public comment time before the board to speak out against the prospect of the district spending any more money on the altemalive roadway issue.

The ftre district paid for the SEC study because, according to the board's position statement, the district needs better traffic flow in Greater Sedona for emergency. transportation.

Instead, many of the protesters on Wednesday said the district should be using taxpayer money to upgrade and fully man the fire stations it already has.

"This thing is a red herring," said Michael White, a Red Rock Loop Road area resident. "Don't fall into it. Let's come back to the the basics. Focus on safety. Focus on service."

Board members listened politely and patiently, but seemed bored and largely unaffected by the comments.

Ray Wrobely, president of SEC, later took the podium and explained his company's report to the Governing Board.

On an impact scale rating system, the Crescent Moon route came out the best, requiring 1/2 mile of new road required and a low-profile bridge. For public safety purposes, this alternative would create a "circular response" system for emergency vehicles.

The Red Rock Crossing route was close behind, requiring 1/4 miles of new road and the upgrade of an existing low water crossing. It too would provide a circular response system for emergency vehicles.

However, this roadway would be very visible and damage the aesthetics of the area, according to the report.

The Back 0'Beyond route scored significantly lower, requiring 31/2 miles of new roadway and the acquisition of several parcels' of land.Additionally, this roadway would not provide a circular response system for emergency vehicles.

"The whole purpose of the study was to update old studies and start a dialogue," Wrobely said.

He encouraged the fire district to next look into the actual costs of building new fIre stations and upgrading those already in existence.

Before approaching the U.S. Forest Service - which must give permission for land use for the project - on the roadway issue,Wrobely said the fIre district first needs to get backing from other political bodies on whichever alternative is chosen.

"In my experience," he said, "the Forest Service doesn't like to get in the middle of a food fight."

Nancy Scagnelli, a newly elected Sedona City Council member and past president of roadway activist group Citizens for an Alternate Route, stood quietly against the back wall during the meeting.

She was joined by two CFAR members and mayor-elect Pud Colquitt.

"I thought it was a very good report,"Scagnelli said. "It was very clear and the issues were very well aligned. I'm pleased that the discussion is getting to a more rational level."

Joe Dick, a Village of Oak Creek resident, didn't seem as pleased.

"This has almost reached religious proportions, spiritual proportions," he said after the meeting. "For anybody to stick their dirty foot in the crossing."

Contact Chelsea DeWeese at 282-7795, Ext. 128, or cdeweese@larsonnewspapers.com.