On Tuesday, the City of Brentwood voted 5-0 to direct the city manager to draft an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to be presented to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District on May 1.
As part of the MOU, the City of Brentwood ($3 million) and the Fire District ($4.2 million) will combine resources to keep a fourth station open for 3-years at a cost of $7.2 million.
The fire district does not have the necessarily revenue to keep a fourth station open after an MOU was agreed upon last year by the County and cities of Brentwood and Oakley. Currently, the fire district has a fiscal model that sustains a three station model with a 20% reserve over 10-years. With the $4.2 million taken out of that model, the future of the District sustainability is unclear.
City Manager Gus Vina highlighted that they came to this option after the first ad-hoc meeting for Brentwood was to tackle the Knightsen station closure as the funding ends in June. They invited Contra Costa County and City of Oakley to participate.
Vina provided background as the Brentwood ad-hoc committee met followed by two meetings involving both Contra Costa County and the City of Oakley stating no agreement was reached in funding a fourth station in Knightsen which led Brentwood to provide the option of a “Brentwood only” funding source.
Under a Brentwood only option, Vina explained two things would be different.
“First, it would require the city of Brentwood to pick up the cost that otherwise would be picked up by Oakley and the county. And secondly, the fourth station would be a station within the City of Brentwood,” stated Vina.
The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District decided on the “Brentwood only” option with a timeline of the following:
- April 11, 2017 – City of Brentwood City Council to discuss and direct staff on preparation of a memorandum of understanding with the District to fund a station in the City of Brentwood.
- April 25, 2017 –City of Brentwood City Council to discuss and approve a memorandum of understanding with the District. Approval of funding and appropriations to include in the FY2017/18 Operational Budget and FY2018/19, FY2019/20 fiscal model for fire services.
- May 1, 2017 –District Board meeting to discuss and approve the memorandum of understanding with the City of Brentwood.
Vina also highlighted how there was still time for both the County and City of Oakley to participate.
“I want to make it clear that both the City of Oakley and the County have said that they could not hear this issue before April 18 which is next week,” said Vina. “It is possible that they in fact they get direction from their respective boards and councils, and present a plan to the fire board on May 1 and would then be up to the fire board on which direction they would like to continue on.
Vice Mayor Steve Barr asked Vina to clarify what happens to the Knightsen Fire Station if the City of Brentwood does not move forward with this MOU.
“It closes in June and the process for that needs to start very soon, by the end of April,” stated Vina.
Councilman Joel Bryant explained that regardless of the County or City of Oakley, the priority is to keep the fourth station open.
“It literally represents 25% of our responding resources to allow that to close means that there will be 25% more of the calls that go unanswered in a timely manner or potentially unanswered at all. That is something that is unacceptable,” said Bryant. “I have no doubt that if we can keep this fourth station open, the City of Brentwood will go forward in looking for a path forward to add additional resources in the future, but frankly I am not willing to look at 25% of the people in this fire district, 25% in the people of Brentwood calls and tell them I am not going to do everything possible to keep them as safe as possible for as long as possible.”
He continued saying whether teamwork is provided by the City of Oakley and the Board of Supervisors, he said it would be wonderful.
“If the fourth station is in Knightsen for now, that is better than having the Knightsen station close,” said Bryant. “if in fact they are not able to come and assist the city of Brentwood in partnership with the fire district, then we owe it to our community to move forward with this and partner with the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District to have a fourth station.”
He admitted they were getting slammed in the media and asked people to reconsider to take every step possible to save one more life.
“We are literally looking at the difference of paying dollars, trading against loosing lives,” said Bryant. “I am not willing to lose a life, or trade dollars for lives. I am willing to pay what needs to be done as a city to try and save the lives of our families.”
Barr explained how the ad-hoc committee was focused on ensuring how the Knightsen station could remain open while ensuring the District did not lose 25% of its responding resources while explaining how they hoped the MOU with the County and Oakley would continue.
“We had two meetings to try and do that,” said Barr. “When it was clear to us that was probably not going to happen within the timeline necessary to prevent the layoffs of firefighters and the closing of the Knightsen station, we developed a plan to offer Brentwood’s resources to prevent that fourth station from closing.”
He explained there was no plan from the beginning to move the station from one place to another, but rather to prevent a fourth station from closing for a second time.
Councilwoman Karen Rarey added that it would be a hard sell to the residents of Brentwood if a condition of the agreement didn’t move the station to Brentwood.
“We didn’t get a consensus that they were going to sell it to their boards,” said Rarey. “So a stop-gap was created and our second option was there so we could prevent ourselves from closing that fourth stations. When it came down to funds and why didn’t we keep it in Knightsen, the fact that we are spending a million dollars a year on our own. We couldn’t justify it to our constituents funding a fire station outside of our city. By bringing it inside the city of Brentwood is how we could justify that.”
Rarey added that if the MOU continued, they could justify keeping it in Knightsen.
The Council agreed in a 5-0 vote to direct staff to draft a MOU to be presented to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board on May 1, 2017.