Originally published Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 11:24a.m.

The civility that punctuated last week’s annexation discussions between the Verde Village Property Owners Association and the City of Cottonwood marked a first for the Verde Valley.

It was good to see that folks in Verde Village are not swayed by the ridiculous social media scare tactics about a Cottonwood threat to take over Verde Village. Further, polls that show support for annexation on the Friends of Verde Village Facebook page prove there is not a firm line drawn in the sand on this issue.

It was good to see that the VVPOA leadership recognizes that the clock is ticking on the 40-plus year old septic systems in place in the villages. Further, it was a definite show of good faith by Cottonwood Mayor Tim Elinski to volunteer to be a resource and a partner to facilitate discussions with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality about the need to provide modern sewer services in Verde Village.

But it bears emphasis that all of the above is not a sign that Verde Village and Cottonwood are marching down the matrimonial altar of expanded municipal boundaries.

For that to happen, several things would need to happen.

First, the folks in Verde Village would need to formally establish an annexation committee. They would need to work with Yavapai County to legally define the boundaries for the area to be annexed into Cottonwood. They would have to put boots on the ground to achieve the legally required number of petition signatures from property owners in the area to be annexed.

Second, this group would need to formally address the Cottonwood City Council to determine if indeed Cottonwood wants to have its city limits expanded into the eight units of Verde Village. While inheriting the population of Verde Village would benefit Cottonwood when it comes to per-capita federal and state shared revenue, the city council would have to weigh that against the costs associated with road construction and maintenance, police protection and all the complexities of providing sewer service to Verde Village. Certainly, there is no guarantee the council majority even wants to see the city’s corporate boundaries extended into Verde Village.

Finally, as has been the case with every annexation discussion that has occurred over the past 30 years, the issue of fire services for Verde Village-Cottonwood will be the biggest hurdle toward a successful annexation effort.

Cottonwood is served by a municipal fire department funded by the city’s general fund. There is no property tax in Cottonwood to fund fire services.

Verde Village, on the other hand, is served by the Verde Valley Fire District, a single political entity dedicated exclusively to fire protection and emergency aid, and funded by a property tax.

Historically, VVFD, and its predecessor, the Verde Rural Fire District, were adamant annexation opponents for obvious reasons. A success annexation of Verde Village would shrink the property tax base for the fire district.

For Cottonwood, annexation poses the difficult question of expanding its fire protection services to the Village and doing so without adding a layer of property tax, or having the fire district expand its boundaries, and property tax, into the Cottonwood city limits. That would mean the city no longer would have its own fire department. There is a model for doing this, as it has been achieved in Clarkdale. Ditto for the fire protection and emergency services the Copper Canyon agency provides in Camp Verde, Lake Montezuma, Rimrock and McGuireville. Further, the City of Sedona has never had a municipal fire department, but instead has been served, and taxed, by the Sedona Fire District, which also serves the Village of Oak Creek community.

Should the folks in Verde Village decide to move forward with annexation, it bears emphasis that they are not taking on an easy job.

It will be work-intensive and laden with political land mines.

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