ECCFPD Board Punts Name Change, Says it Fulfills Board of Supervisor Requirement

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On Monday, the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board of Directors decided to hold off on changing the District’s name and will instead work on correcting those who fail to call the District by its actual name.

The move came after a November 2015 decision where the County agreed to come to the table with an Memorandum of Understanding where they provided funding to the ECCFPD to keep open a 4th fire station.

At the time, then Supervisor Mary Piepho requested four conditions of approval be placed on the fire district which was approved in a 4-1 vote.

  1. initiate action to change the existing Board of Directors from an appointed Board to an elected Board, including application to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo), if legally required;
  2. initiate action to form a citizen’s oversight committee for any revenue enhancement measure that is sought, including residents and taxpayers within the District;
  3. initiate action to evaluate changing the District’s name to one that more accurately reflects the communities that it serves; and
  4. approve the recommendation of District Fire Chief Henderson to use the temporary fund allocation to re-open and operate the fire station in Knightsen.

In March of 2016, the Board of Supervisors had the item again before them and confirmed that these were “requirements” and not “recommendations” being made which was confirmed by County Administrator David Twa.

On Monday, ECCFPD Brian Helmick explained that the cities and county went into an agreement that will expire on June 31, 2017 and addressed many of the items of the MOU.

“As a District, we have been able to achieve all of the items minus one, which is the Districts name change,” said Helmick. “The complexity behind that is that it has been argued by many that the Districts name, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District creates confusion because it’s too close to Contra Costa County which I believe is why the supervisors made the recommendation as part of the MOU.”

Helmick explained that some insert the word “county” into their name so they are mistakenly taken as a county fire service.

“As of today, the District has not taken any direction on pursuing a name change. In doing so, it’s a pretty substantial question that needs to be addressed from not only a branding and marketing perspective, but also a cost and a time issue,” said Helmick.

Preliminary estimates show the cost would be $77,000 for the District to change its name but Helmick admitted there was no way to measure the amount of staff time it would take to implement a change.

“Secondarily although a name change could be beneficial to the organization, it would create some confusion on the front end. We are already in a pretty confusing situation where we are at,” said Helmick.

Director Brian Oftendal asked about the word “recommendation” versus “requirement” in terms of the MOU and the name change.

Helmick replied there was no mandate.

“The name change specifically itself, I have not found anything that reads that it’s mandated for us to do it,” said Helmick. “With that being said, it did stress the fact that they strongly recommend that the District do it

District legal stated there was no requirement in the MOU to change the District name, only that they consider it and stated by having this discussion tonight, they were considering it.

During public comments, Oakley resident and Ironhouse Santiary District Director Susan Morgan stated the county was strongly urging the name change.

“They implied a degree of unhappiness if it didn’t occur and potentially resulting in a withdrawal of voluntary funding, not necessarily stated that strongly, but I believe there are implications to not addressing the name change that should be considered,” stated Morgan.

Jessie Lachance-Mellan stated it was a waste of money because $77k is only the minimum and staff costs were unknown.

“This is wasted money that we can use elsewhere,” said Lachance-Mellon. “Having this discussion satisfies the consideration on the legal requirement. So let’s finish the discussion, close the consideration, and check the box.”

Mark Whitlock, Bethel Island, stated they were here talking about it and in one minute it fulfills the contractual obligation of the MOU that is going to be up in 23-days.

“East Contra Costa County is a geographical statement,” says Whitlock. “I am not trying to beat up on the Supervisors… but I think the whole thing is not very thought out.”

Whitlock says he believed the total cost would be $200k or more which could be better used at outreach for the District or pay for other items within the District.

Hal Bray, Brentwood, stated the Board she let the issue go.

“The only person who requested a name change was Supervisor Piepho, there was nobody else from the county that requested the name change and she is no longer our supervisor. Supervisor Burgis has not mentioned anything about this and I don’t think there is anybody else who is confused in the county,” stated Bray. “I would just let this go.”

During Board Discussion, they were not eager to change the name citing cost and time.

Director Joe Young stated they had discussed this in the past at the time they were considering the ballot measure.

“A major factor at that time was trying to explain a name change at the same time we were explaining a governance change would be really confusing. We decided not to explore a name change at that time. We are going out for an election in 14-to-15 months for directors and we would be right on top of trying to explain a name change at the same time,” stated Young. “They would say who am I electing and who do they serve. My feeling is that the name change idea needs to go to bed for a while. I would like to recommend we not do that.”

Director Doug Hardcastle said they considered it.

“I believe we did our duty to consider it, so our duty is done,” said Hardcastle. “I am okay to consider keeping it as it is.”

Board President Joel Bryant stated that one of the things that had been a regular event was the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors were not calling them the right name.

“When they are discussing the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, which is the name of this District, I know it comes as a shock to everyone in this room, that the word county is not in the name at all, and yet consistently they refer to this as East County Fire which is like calling Walmart, Target,” said Bryant. “It is not in the name, it is the location that this group serves.”

Bryant highlighted the cost is ultimately going to be substantial and there were a lot of places the funds could otherwise be used.

Helmick stated that it would take 6-months to a year to make a “clean break” from the name and that while there is a value to a name change, but questioned if it was the best way at this time to be stewards of the people’s money.

Helmick further highlighted they needed to remedy the fact that people were calling them the wrong name and begin correcting them—that they begin following up with why the name says “county” in the news media or at the Board of Supervisors.

“I have not gone and said that is not who we are. We are not CONFIRE (Contra Costa County Fire), we are not East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, we are East Contra Costa Fire,” explained Helmick. “That is branding that is to be done through our outreach. That is something that we need to do, but I believe I take partial responsibility for not correcting those that have called us by the wrong name.”

Battalion Chiefs Bob Atlas, Jim Huntze, and Ross Macumber work an arson fire.

Bryant explained how most recently Battalion Chief Macumber was on the news with the wrong fire district name.

“Personally, I think eventually a name change with an elected board with some of the changes coming in the future, I wouldn’t say a name change should never be done, but I think right now with the very limited resources that we have an all of the other issues that we have that have been brought forth, I think this board at this time should not necessarily move forward with a name change.”

Director Cheryl Morgan stated she agreed.

“The one person at the County Board of Supervisors who was instant about the name change for reasons that were ridiculous, she is gone,” said Morgan. “There is nobody now in terms of county supervisors that I am aware of who care one way or the other. But if the county insists on the name change, I would insist that they pay for it. If they want us to change our name, they have got more funds than we do, they can pay for it.”

The board voted unanimously not to move forward with a name change.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. You can call the fire district whatever you want, until they properly educate the public and people like ECV are put in their appropriate place, they will never get the revenue they need to grow. More importantly, until they get a new board nothing is going to change.

  2. Morons. Maybe we should call the East Contra Costa Board of directors “Morons” as that is actually fitting and extremely accurate.

    The point they all missed is that YES, it was a mandate and a CONDITION of getting money from the County, which they have received and spent. So not only did the County Board of Supervisors vote to grant money for the district they also mandated (conditioned) it with a name change. In contractual terms the District has now defaulted on the contract. Supervisor Burgis is not dumb and knows how this all works. The fire board isn’t fooling anyone.

    So I think Cheryl Morgan has some explaining to do. The County DID pay. And it is only the “morons” who don’t get the concept. This is another big red flag to the County BOS, who is in a superior position to the fumbling Board of fire directors.

    It’s no wonder everyone wants these morons thrown out. They cannot follow the simplest of directives, whether it be from the County Board of Supervisors, or the public. Mary Piepho got it right. The fire board needs to go as quickly as the misleading name of the district.

  3. Dog,
    The entire district failure began with Mary. At least she finally realized how poor the decisions were made early on and attempted to help correct it. Now this is the current Supervisors mess to clean up. Move the board elections up, reduce the board size to 5, and let’s move on.

    • Lets not rewrite history — especially under an alias. Not one person is responsible but in fact, many people.

      This request for local control were made by those out in east county such as Kevin Romick, Pat Anderson, Bob Taylor and others who wanted local control and thought they could do better than the BOS. The BOS simply agreed to the request.

      The BOS, let them have it under conditions:

      1. Move to an elected board
      2. Come up with a revenue source.

      Neither has occurred. Which then brings up the point, since they didn’t follow through, shouldn’t it default back under BOS control who should then just merge it with confire and problem solved.

      • ECT, I can’t believe you stated back to merge with Con Fire. These past years you have supported the opposite. I’m glad you came to you’re senses. It’s too late now because the voters took over to demand an elected board. The only way back to the sups is bankruptcy or a board MOU. What a waste of ten years.

        • @Reader,

          Have always said if they can’t find revenue, they should merge with CONFIRE. In fact, the entire county should be 1 department instead of the many it has. Whatever can provide the best service, whether its ECCFPD or a merger, do it. Cost on the other hand, is the problem.

    • @ Bad Choice-

      East County Today /ECT/ probably put it to you best. You cannot rewrite history try as you may. Either you are a soured, former fire district wannabe or you haven’t been following this district. You wouldn’t purposely be trying to rewrite history would you?

      IF you were paying attention and going to meetings you would know that both cities of Oakley and Brentwood were doing nothing short of demanding that the district be turned over. Mary Piepho succeeded where others had failed. Maybe you missed that but I doubt it. The consolidation of three departments into one was also a logical step. Did you miss that too or just another rewrite?

      The only poor decisions and there were many were all conducted by the created fire board. They continue to make even more mistakes with each and every meeting. I can’t remember them making a single productive or responsible decision. No one including the board of supervisors could have predicted such a fouled up board. They have systematically run the fire department right into the ground. Probably couldn’t do it faster if you tried.

      I may be a dog, but I follow the facts. You should try it.

  4. Fire board directors, the two words “Contra Costa” specifically infer County. It’s not that difficult to understand why a name change is necessary.

    Director Morgan, the County already subsidized you with an initial multimillion dollar cash infusion and also has participated with hundreds of thousands of dollars in your latest fiasco to keep a 4th station open. Not only did they require a name change at least twice but they paid for it several times over. It’s not rocket science.

  5. Change your name once, twice 10x, if it’s still run by the same inept people, then you’re just wasting resources

  6. Let’s not forget that the CCCBOS was the original governing body who mandated the formation of this fire district and actually came up with the name themselves. Secondly the BOS made several stipulations with strings attached to the money they contributed but along with the money there was also the expectation that they would assist with placing a measure on the ballot which they failed to follow through with. So when we get down to brass tacs considering they being the largest organization involved made the smallest contribution and then did not even fulfill their own end of the deal it’s pretty ridiculous for them to even attempt to enforce a condition as trivial as a name change. I would consider it null and void at this point.

    • Brandon, please don’t confuse yourself or try to confuse others. Your opinions are not facts and further not a single one of them is correct. It’s amazing that you would string together such a long posting of falsified information.

      You got it wrong about the name.

      You got it wrong about the stipulations. County never promised assistance with an election.

      You got it wrong about the responsibility (percentage of population that is covered by the county versus the cities) which is actually reflected accurately by the governing board membership (only two members are County).

      You got it wrong about organization and contribution. County has no fire department responsibity, financial or otherwise to an independent special district.

      Study up on your civics. Attend a few meetings. Until then you fractured opinions are considered null and void. Newsflash hotshot~you don’t get a vote as too what is trivial and what is not.

  7. As soon as I heard the election would be so far away, it was clear there are other political forces at play. The facts are clear that the BOS not only are at fault, the entire time that fueled it by not taking care of hard decisions starring them in the face. Who knows, the BOS may be forced to clean up their mess after all. Hopefully no one dies while this game continues.

    • Why don’t you enlighten us to your conspiracy theories dog catcher? I see people posting facts but you are not one of them. Please do us all a gyrations favor and cease substituting your opinion for actual facts.

      Bumper stickers and tin foil bonnets more your speed? Place blame with the ones that have been running the fire district for almost a decade. The fire board. End of story.

      Hopefully no unnecessary deaths occur while you are playing your game. It’s become boorish.

  8. And just what would miss Mary like the fire district that covers east county called. I guess we could combine parts of Brentwood and Oakley’s names and call it BR-OAK-FD. The name should stay as is. ECCFPD!

    • Yeah…just like the San Francisco 49ers play in San Francisco. Wait, wait, they don’t? How freaking stupid is that? Why name them in the first place if it doesn’t reflect the organization. Why would East Contra Costa remain the name if it isn’t a county department? I’m told it isn’t and hasn’t been for many years. Time for a change. Call it anything but east Contra Costa or keep pushing the kick the can and no change, wait and see mentality. How’s that working for y’all?

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