A proposal by the Idaho-based Wildland Firefighter Foundation to buy the former home of the Granite Mountain Hotshots has been rejected by the City of Prescott in favor of a higher bid from a local plumbing company.
In unanimous action on Tuesday, July 25, the Prescott City Council approved the sale of the Fire Station 7 property to Arizona Service Company Inc. for $362,500.
The company, which does business as The Plumbing Store, submitted the high bid by the June 29 deadline. One other bid – for $250,000 from Boshca’s Revocable Trust – was also submitted by the deadline.
This week’s council action rules out the possibility of the non-profit Wildland Firefighter Foundation’s proposal to remodel and convert the fire station into a memorial to the Granite Mountain Hotshots, 19 of whom died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013.
The proposal from the foundation stated: “The Wildland Firefighter Foundation is very interested in acquiring the station and preserving the legacy of the (Granite Mountain Hotshots) … and remodeling it as a memorial site to (the Hotshots) and interpretive center for wildland fire for tourism.”
The proposal added that the foundation viewed the project as providing “a healing opportunity for the City of Prescott, the State of Arizona and the wildland community as a whole that is long overdue.”
The Foundation submitted its proposal about 10 days after the city’s deadline, offering a purchase price of $320,000, with a down payment of $10,000, and $2,000 per month to the city until payoff, with a five-year balloon payment.
That proposal reportedly led to a closed-door executive-session discussion by the council on July 11, and city officials did not release the details of any of the bids until this past week.
Prior to the council’s decision on Tuesday, City Manager Michael Lamar explained that the council had several options after receiving the late bid. “They could have ignored it altogether, or they could have made all the bids null and void and opened (the process up) to start all over,” he said.
Ultimately, Lamar said, the council leaned toward accepting the high bid from The Plumbing Store, because of the several months that the city had given the Hotshot families this past winter and spring to come up with a plan for preserving Fire Station 7. (The waiting period did not produce a proposal).
Family members who attended this week’s meeting had differing views on the proposed sale.
Amanda Marsh, the widow of fallen Hotshot Superintendent Eric Marsh, said she feels “fairly settled” with the sale to Arizona Service Company.
“I have spoken with the company that wants to buy this, and I feel like they are very interested in working with the families to continue to honor the legacy of the crew at this location,” Marsh told the council. “And to me, that’s a big deal.”
And in response to the council motion, which will require the proceeds from the sale to go entirely to help pay down the city’s more than $78 million of debt with the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System, Marsh added, “I am really grateful to know the money from the sale will go into PSPRS.”
But Linda Lambert, the aunt of fallen Hotshot Andrew Ashcraft, voiced opposition to the sale, pointing out that the city had an option for preservation through the Wildland Firefighter Foundation’s proposal. She added that her family had heard from a number of community members “showing their disappointment in what the City of Prescott is doing.”
Afterward, Lambert said, “Obviously, a majority of the families do not want to see (the station) as a plumbing store.”
The council also heard disappointment from Dottie Morris and Jan Monroe – the two volunteer directors of the Tribute Fence Preservation Project who oversaw the massive task of preserving the thousands of memorial items that grieving family members, firefighters, and community members left on the fence around Station 7 in the weeks after the tragedy.
The two have pushed for a museum at Station 7, and Monroe suggested it had not happened “because nobody championed Station 7.” She and Morris urged the council to reconsider its move toward selling, and allow for a nationwide effort to raise money for the project.
Afterward, Morris called the council’s unanimous decision to sell the station “myopic.”
But city officials say there is a possibility that a Hotshot museum could still happen at a different site. To help with that process, Lamar pointed out that Fire Chief Dennis Light would conduct a meeting of stakeholders and interested citizens from 9 to 11 a.m. Aug. 12, at the Prescott Public Library, 215 E. Goodwin St.
Light, who will serve as a facilitator in the process, noted after the meeting that “all along, there have been undertones about creating a museum.” He said a Prescott museum could memorialize not just the Hotshots, but the community’s long history with wildfire as well.
But Lambert voiced disappointment that the city had not conducted a similar public meeting several months ago – before going out for bid for sale of the building.
“We have these supporters, but nobody has been able to pull them together,” she said. Still, she said she has committed to do what she can to help the effort.