Home Brentwood Contra Costa County Fire Board Agrees to Move Forward With Annexation Process of Fire Districts

Contra Costa County Fire Board Agrees to Move Forward With Annexation Process of Fire Districts

by ECT

On Tuesday, in a 5-0 vote, the Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board of Directors approved received and accepted a report related to the potential annexation of the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District and the Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District.

The districts have been working since 2020 on a study on whether annexation would be both feasible and sustainable in a goal to improve fire service across the service areas.  In the past, it was deemed unfeasible, however, ECCFPD has worked to reduce its financial burden, work on increasing revenue and educate the community.

The report, which was released two-weeks ago and is 275-pages (see below), supports annexation.

For East Contra Costa County, this means additional resources to be deployed in the near future. The District has been attempting to increase service levels for nearly a decade after shuttering 5 stations between 2010-2017 (with some being operational off and on) leaving them with just a 3-station service model and relying on aid from Contra Costa County Fire and other neighboring Districts with long response times.  Trying to generate revenue proved difficult based on how the District was formed in 2002 under Prop 13 laws.

Rather than try for another tax, ECCFPD worked on an education plan for the community while worked towards consolidation by cleaning up the Districts operation and finances.

According to the report received on Tuesday, its calling for Station 4 in Walnut Creek to reopen, additional staffing for Fire Station 55 in the City of Oakley / Bethel Island  area, a second fire company at Station 52 (City of Brentwood) until station 51 is built. The City of Antioch would also get a fire station sometime in the next 5-years.

With Tuesday’s actions by the Fire Board, CONFIRE will move forward to an application process with LAFCO–an approval process that could take approximately 6-months.

Chief Lewis Broschard, CONFIRE Chief, and the consultants provided the verbal report to the Fire Board Tuesday.

Broschard said they were all there to improve the current situation and that means different things to the west and the east side of the county but believed annexation was the path forward. Other elements will come up in the mid-to-long term but did support the findings.

“I do think its a good idea for us to move forward, I do support annexation,” said Broschard.

According to the report:

The first phase of the study was completed in November of 2020.

The analysis conducted during Phase One concluded  with a preliminary determination that the annexation of  East Contra Costa Fire Protection District into Contra Costa County Fire Protection District was feasible and  viable.

In December, Phase 2 of the study added the Rodeo  Hercules Fire Protection District (RHFPD) and includes a  comprehensive analysis of each district’s financial, staffing,  support programs, and operational capabilities related to the  feasibility of annexation of ECCFPD & RHFPD into CCCFPD

FISCAL ANALYSIS AND NEEDED RESOURCES

(Note – projections were on a 5-year scale only)

The fiscal analysis of the proposed annexations demonstrates feasibility to provide up to two additional staffed fire stations in the eastern portions of the county. The analysis, like many, is based on a snapshot in time and the available information and relevant assumptions at that point in time. The fiscal analysis includes the costs associated with the planned reopening of Fire Station 4 in Walnut Creek, as well as the additional staffing of Fire Station 55 in the Oakley/Bethel Island area, and a second fire company in Brentwood to be co-located at Fire  Station 52 until a new fire station is constructed (Fire Station 51).

In addition to those new resources identified in the study, the following known issues need to be addressed to fully support the annexation and provide appropriate emergency response capacity:

  • Restoration of the 30th, and final, Con Fire engine company that was closed as a result  of the great recession.
    • $3.5M annually to fund equipment, apparatus, and ongoing operational costs
    • Relocated to FS 81 downtown Antioch
      • Address call volume and high unit hour utilization as identified in the annexation study.
    • Funding included in the regional Measure X request by County Fire Chiefs
  • Fire Station 54
    • The “sixth station” necessary to serve Brentwood/Oakley areas
    • $3.5M annually
      • Years 1-4 to fund construction costs, apparatus, and equipment
      • Years 5+ to fund operational costs
    • Funding included in the regional Measure X request by County Fire Chiefs
  • Reduced Dispatch Fee Revenues
    • Identified in the annexation study
    • Ongoing replacement funding of $700,000 included in the regional Measure X request by County Fire Chiefs
  • Three District Chiefs
    • Referenced on page 43 of the report.
    • Necessary due to increased span of control within the Emergency Operations Division.
    • This was already being considered internal to Con Fire due to the size and increasing complexity of the existing organization prior to annexation discussions.
    • An internal review of the existing organizational structure and opportunities for using existing resources to fill this need, use of new resources available as a result of the annexation, or the addition of positions will need to be evaluated.

Without these additional funds to support the necessary resources and programs to fully support the fire, rescue, and emergency medical services needs of the areas served, it is likely that the newly reorganized district will fall short in its ability to provide the necessary emergency service levels in those communities identified with current service level deficiencies.

Long-term growth in the annexed areas, particularly in east county, will be supported by impact
fee and community facility district programs established by the East Contra Costa Fire
Protection District and those in place or in the process of being formed by the Contra Costa

County Fire Protection District. While the long-term funding strategies appear to be appropriate
for future growth, the short- and medium-term needs identified above require the ongoing
support of Measure X funds to make annexation successful in providing improved service levels
to the public and providing sustainable fire, rescue, and emergency medical services to the
region.

In addition, it will be necessary to ensure other funding sources, such as countywide Measure H
funds already being received by the fire districts are continued at a level at least consistent with
current funding levels across the combined agencies.

Q&A From Fire Board

Supervisor Candace Andersen asked about salaries and the assumptions between the three Districts and what occurs if all three are merged and what happens to the lower paid employees.

The consultant explained the transition which everyone would be on the same pay scale by year 4 of the annexation – they would enter CONFIRE pay scale which has 7-steps so there would be no giant increase in salaries.

Andersen confirmed they would enter at same pay they currently have but would have a higher ceiling over time due to the additional pay scale steps.

Supervisor Federal Glover asked about response times and asked if the annexation would provide an improvement.

The consultant explained that CONFIRE would utilize everything it has today which would not create an immediate enhancement. However, as Station 4 and ECCFPD stations open that is when the county will see the improvements. CONFIRE will also work to further improve its enhancements over time because there is no longer need for mutual or auto aid within the own system.

Supervisor Diane Burgis asked several questions on behalf of concerns by East Contra Costa residents who have caution along with fear and lack of trust.

She asked if the ECCFPD strategic plan was included in the study. The consultant said no because they relied on data by their own team versus someone else—noting this was not a deployment analysis, it was a feasibility study.

Burgis said the need was six stations right now and wanted to be sure if CONFIRE was under the same understanding.

Chief Broschard said annexation gets them further ahead and they could get from 3-to-5 stations within ECCFPD service area. He then said within 5-years, the 6th station could be built through possibly Measure X funding. He said while Station 4 will be reopened, another Station would be opened in Antioch due to service level demand.

“If we are going to move forward, the Board will own and have to resolve the issues in the future,” said Broschard. “The long-term growth prospects, I am happy to say, there are good solutions in place both in East Contra Costa and areas for potential growth in Rodeo-Hercules. For East Contra Costa Fire they have implemented community development impact fees and community facilities districts for the 10-20 year range that has been identified for the areas likely to grow the next couple of decades. With those CFD’s, by 2040, its projected all the square footage has been developed, reoccurring revenue stream of $21 million in addition to property taxes in that area which bodes well for future expansion of that area. The development impact fees are needed to build the stations and apparatus, by 2040, is expected to yield $36 million in one time funds.”

Broschard said the long-term the tools are in place to make it successful.

Burgis confirmed the strategic plan is calling for 9-stations total which Broschard acknowledged the funding and commitment.

Burgs shared the fear of being “Adopted District” or “stepchild” area. If the annexation goes through, this is a full-fledged part of the District correct and no rules for different areas.

Broschard said “yes”. The board would be responsible to provide consistent level of service throughout the entire District from San Pablo to Discovery Bay—this includes paramedic program in a phased approach.

Burgis asked about increasing staffing at the Sunshine Station (CALFIRE). Broschard says the cost has come down and they are looking at that during the winter months.

 Board Discussion

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff appreciated the report and asked about next steps.

Broschard explained the next steps would to direct staff to work on preparing a resolution of application for LAFCO and a service plan along with necessary documents for August 10 meeting for the Board to make the determination to file them with LAFCO which initiates the official process.

Supervisor Burgis asked if Rodeo-Hercules did not move forward.

Broschard said they would simply amend the LAFCO application and remove them from consideration. LAFCO would also do its own finding to see if this was something they would support.

Burgis called Tuesday a day she had been waiting for.

“As a Contra Costa County resident and someone living in East Contra Costa Fire Protection District and someone who has had interactions, needing fire services in the past and wanting it improved where I live, the goal of fixing this has been one of my primary goals,” explained Burgis. “I don’t want to do something symbolic that just says we fixed it, I want something that really is an investment in a long-term solution.”

She stated that with increased fire risks and growth in East Contra Costa, it will help everyone be more confident in fire service and improve the quality of life and improves the value of living here.

“Having this annexation go through creates a strong regional team and we are going to be able to have the kinds of services we need,” said Burgis.

Supervisor Federal Glover reminded the public that over the years, they consolidated many smaller districts into East Contra Costa Fire which has been a long row for everyone. He then pointed out all the mutual aid provided by Contra Costa County Fire.

“If it had not been for all the mutual aid supplied along the way to various agencies, none of these districts would have been able to stand up. Its because of that, that when you look at consolidations, you have to keep in mind if you don’t have the strong mutual aid system that is in place, we would have really found ourselves with many fatalities and public safety issues along the way jeopardizing our firefighters as well as our community at large,” said Glover.

He further highlighted he was considered by comments made out of Rodeo-Hercules but at the same time believed this was a place where they had to have serious conversation but be ready to make important policy decisions moving forward—such as training and good governance for the entire system of the county.

Glover called the fire district “global” and not one region versus another.

“I do really accept this report today, I think it has a lot of good factual information in it,” said Glover. “Annexation is the answer in terms of moving forward.”

Supervisor John Gioia called this an issue that has been looked at for many years including when they made East Contra Costa Fire into a professional district from a volunteer district—which there has always been a gap in service.

“I think the presentation we seen is really about improving fire service for everyone in Contra Costa County whether or not you live in East County Fire or Rodeo-Hercules because our system succeeds as a whole,” stated Gioia. “There is already mutual aid and auto aid that occurs. But when one part of our county system, it effects the neighboring district. I think the more we look at fire issues holistically and more regionally I think, especially in this age of wildfire, we improve service for everyone. I think what has been presented to us helps residents in the CONFIRE District as well as Rodeo-Hercules and East Contra Costa Fire.”

He called the proposal “attractive”, and they work with all districts. He supported the move.

Glover also recognized former supervisor Mary Piepho calling this process something that had not been easy.

“She worked hard on these issues also. I want to acknowledge her,” said Glover.

The Board then directed staff to prepare the application and resolution to be submitted to LAFCO in a 5-0 vote.

In the coming month, the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District and Rodeo-Hercules are expected to take similar actions as ECCFPD Chief Brian Helmick has already recommended the move forward with the annexation process.

Attachments
Adjunct Staff Report
Annexation Study Presentation
Annexation Feasibility Report – Volume 1
Annexation Feasibility Report – Volume 2
County Fire Chiefs’ Measure X Presentation

You may also like

Leave a Comment