Tusayan's assistant fire chief finds housing assistance in nick of time

Assistant Fire Chief Lora Pitsinger is seeking housing at the U.S. Forest Service housing units. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

Assistant Fire Chief Lora Pitsinger is seeking housing at the U.S. Forest Service housing units. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

TUSAYAN, Ariz. - On March 15 Assistant Fire Chief Lori Pitsinger was given an eviction notice and told she had 30 days to move out of her home. Pitsinger, an employee of Tusayan Fire Department for more than10 years, was quickly running out of options.

As an employee in Tusayan, Pitsinger's housing is provided by her employer - the Fire Department was renting Pitsinger's house from Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), which asked Pistinger to leave because of mold issues. With a 30 day deadline looming, the Fire Department exhausted their efforts to find new housing for Pitsinger.

The department said they have looked at a variety of options but were limited by availability of housing in Tusayan. The department said they needed Pitsinger's housing to be close to Tusayan because of Pitsinger's responsibilities. One suitable unit was found at the employee housing unit for Kaibab National Forest Service, north of Tusayan.

"It seems to be a very fair price," said Fire Chief Greg Brush. "The beauty of this is the Forest Service is willing to have us with their permits and authorizations, since we're an entity, not a private individual."

Brush said the arrangement works well for the Forest Service and the district and said the department has taken steps to reserve the unit.

Finding money to rent the unit was the next hurdle for the department.

As part of their 2016-17 fiscal year budget the Fire District has money allocated from the town of Tusayan to be used toward the department's expenses.

During the town council's April 20 meeting, Brush presented information to council members and asked if part of the allocated money could be used for the department's immediate housing needs. Brush explained the financial difficulties of the district and explained Pitsinger's housing predicament.

At a previous council meeting, Brush gave an update of services provided by the Fire Department to the town of Tusayan and surrounding area.

"We would like to ask the council to use the un-allocated payroll funds that (the council) graciously offered Tusayan Fire for the 2015-2016 payroll costs," Brush said.

Brush explained that the cost of the housing will be provided through the town's allocated funding for the department and said utility costs would be covered by the department's general funding.

"(The district) has been responsible with funds and have (used) significantly less than we allocated. We appreciate that," said Craig Sanderson, mayor of Tusayan. "The request by the Fire Department then is to use the balance, whatever remains currently, projected to be somewhere just short of $100,00 to be utilize for this asset that is critical not only for the current (need) but would continue (to be used) as a resource you desperately need."

Council members voted to approve up to but not to exceed $80,000 of the fire district's allocated funding from the town.

To address future housing needs at the department Brush said he has implemented a new shift plan.

"We modified our schedules, so we have some people who will come in for 48 hour shifts and that alleviates the need for them to have housing like we've been providing for everybody else," Brush said. "That's been one of the biggest hurdles all along for us as a department and I think we've worked around it."

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