On November 2, the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District will be presenting a proposal by a local Task Force of stakeholders who are proposing to fund a 4th fire station.
According to the proposal, the 4th Station, whose location would be determined by the fire chief, would open in January 2016 and would increase the staffing of firefighters on duty from 9-firefighters to 12-firefighters. The cost would be $1.4 million with the City of Brentwood, City of Oakley and the County splitting the costs based on calls for service within the District.
Under the proposal, the 4th fire station would be open for a 16-month period where it would close in June 2017 if a future revenue enhancement is not approved by voters.
In total, here is what each stakeholder would pay over the course of 16-months:
- ECCFPD: $873,978
- Brentwood: $666,000
- Oakley: $382,202
- County: $311,617
- Total: $2.33 million
If the ECCFPD approves the recommendation, the District will present the plan to both Brentwood and Oakley City Councils for approval as well as the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors—note, all three must approve the proposal.
Gus Vina, Brentwood City Manager, stated the Task Force has no authority when it comes to the Fire District, but this community has a crisis on its hand whether people realize it or not.
“We self-appointed the committee to find a solution and set recommendations,” said Vina. “We are looking for political support to fix this problem for the long-term, once and for all. We are starting Monday with the fire district because if they say no thank you, we are done and there is no reason to go forward.”
Vina says the District has done everything it can to manage the District while finding a solution which included trying to find new revenues.
In total, the Task Force provided three priority recommendations for the fire board to consider Monday.
- Consider a 2016 Ballot Initiative to fund ECCFPD: an exploratory team to be assembled to evaluate an initiative to fund the ECCFPD and if appropriate, launch the campaign at a later date.
- Use Best Practices to develop an Unconstrained Model for Fire and Ambulance Services (Master Plan): The task force recommends the engagement of consulting services for the development of a financial and operational plan that would identify how fire and medical services should be delivered in the existing ECCFPD with assumptions of population growth for the next 25 to 30 years. The task force further recommends that subject matter experts from staff be included in this discussion.
- A Fourth Fire Station: This would increase daily staffing by 25%
Vina noted the third recommendation is temporary band aid only.
“I characterize this as a temporary short-term solution. How do we help the district now as best we can and its to open a 4th station and then what we did was look at the board to see how much can you bring to the table,” said Vina. “We distributed to Brentwood, Oakley and the County based on calls for service. The big picture is the district is doing everything they can from a budget standpoint and the stakeholders hopefully approves are recommendation to participate to open a 4th station.”
Vina further highlighted the any consideration for a 2016 ballot initiative would be community driven and the public should be involved in the Master Plan.
Chief Hugh Henderson noted that currently, Brentwood has 48% of the Districts calls for service, 35% in Oakley and the remaining is in the unincorporated area.
“I agree, this is just a Band-Aid when you really need a tourniquet,” said Chief Henderson.
Chief Henderson noted that the Master Plan is similar to the study previously presented in 2006 which highlighted the District should have 10-fire Stations. Under this new Master Plan, he anticipates it to be even more detailed and would provide updated information.
He noted under the Master Plan, the task force and fire board have similar goals, it’s just a matter of what road to take.
“If the Fire Board approvals the Master Plan in November, we are looking at late June of it coming back and seeing what it looks like,” said Henderson. “Over the years, the last time a Master Plan in started in 2004 and received in 2006 which talked about 10-stations and needing additional revenue back then. This will give us something such as are the stations even properly located as part of this plan to take some of the finger pointing away.”
Vina added that in the Master Plan, the community must be involved so they can better understand how the services work and the level of risk we are at with just three-stations.
The District covers 249 square miles and a population of 110,000 and in 2014 they had 6,300 calls they responded to with 78% being medical, 10% being fire, and 12% being public service calls.
When asked why not just stop responding to medical calls, Vina replied that was silly.
“You are already paying for the firefighters on duty. If you stop sending engines, now we have to pay for more ambulances in the District which may cost even more. We also do not have the authority with ambulances, the county does,” explained Vina.
When asked why hasn’t the City of Brentwood or City of Oakley or the County not issued a Moratorium on Housing until there is a long-term fire solution, Vina replied there is already a problem, however, new homes help pay for the fire district as well as other city services.
“A moratorium shoots yourself in the foot twice,” said Vina. “New homes bring in new revenue to fund the fire district. Plus new homes are built with new technology such as fire sprinklers that actually helps prevent fires,” explained Vina.
The recommendation by the Task Force comes after the public twice voted down revenue enhancements for the District. In 2012, the District had just 43% support for Measure S while in April of 2015; its Benefit Assessment gained nearly 46.9% support.
Under this Task Force Proposal, Vina admits they are taking the vote out of the public’s hand and putting it into the city councils and Board of Supervisors which is allowed because it’s the city’s and county’s general fund. He noted this is why elected leaders are elected, to make this decision based on their community needs.
Vina noted that over the months, they worked through several challenges such as each areas individual needs, firefighter needs and personal needs because it was about community safety. He even noted his own personal challenge as being new to the area after being away fo many years.
“The most difficult part that is a curse and a blessing is not having any history in the district for 10-years. A curse because it’s hard when you have blind spots on issues and people having to educate me. It’s a blessing because I charged ahead dismissing baggage and bad relationships to instead of focusing where we disagree, but where do we agree and go from there. We don’t have the time we just have to move forward. We have so many challenges with the stakeholders who have different missions from the cities, the union, Board of supervisors, but ultimately the group came together.”
Vina noted he was pleased with the recommendations after months of discussions.
“I want to get to the end game because I want to see a fire district that can stand on its own for the next 25-30 years,” said Vina. “The band aid approach is just the first step. This is a crisis, but we can’t bury our heads in the sand after a few failed attempts of how to fix. We have to fix it and there is no reason to give up because this is about the community’s public safety. It needs to be fixed.”
The Task Force, who had been meeting since June, was comprised of City Managers, fire chiefs, and local stakeholders. The members include:
- Gustavo (“Gus”) Vina, Brentwood City Manager
- Bryan Montgomery, Oakley City Manager
- Tomi Riley, Chief of Staff for Supervisor Piepho
- Krystal Hinojosa, Chief of Staff for Supervisor Mitchoff
- Vince Wells, President, IAFF Local 1230
- Gil Guerrero, Vice President, IAFF Local 1230 and ECCFPD Fire Captain
- Bob May, Representative, IAFF, Local 1230 and ECCFPD Fire Engineer
- Jeff Carman, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Fire Chief
- Brian Helmick, ECCFPD Battalion Chief
- Hugh Henderson, ECCFPD Fire Chief
The ECCFPD meeting on Monday is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. inside the Oakley City Council Chambers. To review the Task Force Recommendation and view the agenda, click here.
Everything is always a band aid with these guys. Go fix the problem once and for all instead of taking money aimed at other things in cities and the county. Voters already spoke twice and these people are still not listening We all know Prop 13 is the issue. Attack that and bring back volunteers to help with the budget.
Vote out any elected official that supports this plan of taking money out of the cities.
I really hope your house is the next to burn down or a member of your family dies – maybe then you’ll realize the value of the fire department.
So why haven’t the cities funded this in the past? Now they want to fund the District? What is the end game here?
Gee I wonder where they will place it. Downtown Brentwood or bust.
This task force could not find one person in a community of 100,000 people to help create the recommendations? This District is making a huge mistake if they wish to ram something down our throats without public participation
What good is a fourth station when we really need a fifth in a worst case scenario? Even then, we still have CONFIRE and CALFIRE responding to our calls. Is this really about public safety or union jobs? If they want to fix it, fix it and address the issue which is Prop 13. Why didn’t they meet for months to discuss tackling that monster instead.
The public participation started at 2:00 PM Friday, when the recommendations were released to the media. The public will have at least 5 opportunities to participate in the next few months, starting at 6:30 PM tomorrow (Monday) at Oakley City Hall.
For those of you who keep saying “find a permanent solution”, read more closely. The recommendations cover both short-term and long-term. The long-term solution starts with a study to define the right number and locatiion of fire stations for the next 25-30 years, and seek funding to meet that target. My guess is 6 or 7, but we’ll see. The Board will consider funding this study as part of tomorrow’s Agenda.
As for the property tax allocation issue, of course we have sought relief at the State level, which is where the rules are written. Any gain to the Fire District means a loss somewhere else, like the cities (think Police) or schools. Everyone will be out to protect themselves, which creates tremendous intertia. Even the most optimistic sees this as a very long term effort, with little chance of success. The emergency, however, is today’s.
For those of you who insist on trading other city functions for fire, be careful what you wish for. If this fails, I expect the District to fragment. If Brentwood has to form it’s own Fire Department, it will cost Brentwood Residents much more than an integrated District would. Same for Oakley, which is contending with forming its own Police Department. I have no idea what the County would do for the unincorporated areas, since they are under no legal requirement to do anything.
Thank you for participating in this forum.
Understanding that the fire district is not responsible for funding or providing medical services just as the county is not responsible for funding or providing fire protection services, do you support the county reimbursing the district for the medical services provided?
If the ECCFPD charged the county $200 per district employee who responds to medical (non-fire protection) call, how much additional revenue would the district have accrued in 2014?
“Reader” you refuse to get it. This much is clear.
One is EMS first responder and the other is EMS transport. They are two separate responsibilities. Why is that so difficult for you to understand?
You have been told (multiple times) that the no one is going to throw extra taxpayer money at the fire department for providing first responder ems service. Being a first responder in the EMS chain is part of their job and an industry standard.
Now when it comes to EMS TRANSPORT the county does provide EMS funds for EMS TRANSPORT which is NOT a function of the fire department.
Keep asking the same question and you will keep getting the same answer.
Under the Contra Costa County Emergency Medical Services system, Fire Departments are an integral part of the process. In two Contra Costa districts, the Fire Department provides the ambulances directly. This integration will only get tighter in 2016, with the direct CONFIRE/AMR partnership.
The Finance Committee at its last meeting directed the beginning of the process to directly bill Medical Insurance Plans for First Responder services. First, we have to legally establish a cost structure to support the fees charged. Then, assuming we can do so as a BLS agency, we would pass an ordinance authorizing the billing. More and more departments are doing this, and insurance companies are paying.
However, the amount of money is not very large, compared to the costs of maintaining a Fire Station.
Mr Smith once again you miss the obvious. Insurance companies do not work for free. They are not a third party that shows up, pays bills and moves on. They are our insurance companies and will pass any increases on to us, their customers. You are not doing us any favors for causing our premiums to increase because you fail to see the chain reaction of caused by your shortsightedness. In the end you will save pennies and cost us dollars. Good going. You have a bad habit of cherry picking information and not seeing the forest for the trees (the big picture). …SMH…
Are your answers “no” and “I don’t know”?
Poor Mr. Smith…..You just don’t get it.
Enough already on paying for studies. What a waste of money. There should be enough competent individuals in the district, county, and previous studies to understand the problem. I conclude its money and money wasted on multiple studies. By now the district should get a fifty percent discount from studies because they keep repeating the same thing. This is another reason people vote no. It is nice the cities and county are starting to help.
The last study was commissioned by the County ten years ago and, knowing what I know now, I regard it as inadequate. It started with the existing 8-station structure inherited from the three predecessor districts working under a completely different service model. When I learned we were considering a study as part of the Task Force process, I insisted that the study start with a blank sheet of paper, ignoring the current station locations, and look at call volumes and distributions plus projected growth areas. Only then should they determine how many stations and where placed would serve current and anticipated calls.
The study being commissioned by the District meets that requirement, and at a lower cost than the previous study. The Task Force considers this an important part of the process of determining what the final configuration of the Fire Department should be.
Mr Smith, when you are in a trauma situation you don’t worry about how your hair looks or where you parked your car. The message you are sending to the voters is that while you claim to be on life support you do have the resources to get your hair done and have your car washed. Do you really think the voters will ever support the district as long as you keep reminding them that you have disposable money? Study after study will show the same result. Fire stations are and have never been placed in the perfect spots because of the way they are financed–usually by developer fees and available parcels of land. Its like that everywhere in this county and up and down the state. In the end what is more important how voters see your actions–not how you see them. Explaining the obvious is somehow not lost on the voters so why is it lost on you? Do you really want to help this fire district or are you stubborn enough to seal its fate? If you can find a grant to fund another study then knock yourself out.
JS, you should probably reread the piece.
This money is a one and done. Assuming it gets approved at all. There is no “starting to help”. This is a 16 month bridge for people of the District to come to their senses.
If you doubt that in any way, shape or form, I suggest to pedal on down to the Oakley city council chambers at 6:30pm today and ask Gus Vina himself.
If you don’t and you just sit here spewing unsubstantiated nonsense, we’ll know you’re just a fraud running a smear campaign on this blog.
Ditto for your buddy Flint who’s hiding as “Reader” in a post above.
Attended the fire meeting in Oakley tonight. Wish I hadn’t. We are in trouble folks. The directors don’t know what the hell they are doing. They discussed this item for almost two hours before they were told by their own attorney that this wasn’t a decision that committed them to anything. Then they wanted to debate it some more. Ended up putting some unknown control issues on it which made no sense. They overlooked the obvious. Two cities and the county were throwing them a financial lifeline, but the majority of them wanted to impose their own conditions and actually had the gall to ask for more money! Everyone in the room could see they were making a big mistake by trying to sweeten the deal that was being offered up. They are in no position to negotiate but that didn’t seem to stop these guys. They have absolutely no skills!!!! I would expect both city’s and the county to reject their conditions. With the exception of two of them, you wouldn’t believe their arrogance and stupidity. I’ve personally never seen anything like this.
Once again the wheels spin!!!!! Why would you show up for the same old thing? Until the correct answer is reached, why would you go to the meetings? We’re not going to over turn prop. 13. Why would we want to? People have continued to show they are not going to pay more taxes, fees etc. No matter what you want to call them!!!!! Add up what we pay now:(. All the studies about stations/staffing etc. are putting the cart before the horse. Please no more consultants for awhile. Save the money and put It towards getting what is already there and belongs to the district!!!!! Redistribute what already should be going to the district. It will not be easy!!!! But it can be done. Have to get the right people in the right positions. The right ones to start the process would be the Fire Chief, fire board, ad hoc committee and the firefighters union.
It’s easier to hire consultants and do studies. Ask for more money!!!! But it’s not working. No band aids. Let’s fix the problem. Do the right thing. Get/Use the money that belongs to ECCFPD!!!!
And yes your right. It will never happen unless someone tries!!!!!!
Say what Rob? I understand that prop 13 is part of the issue and as a homeowner I appreciate its allowance to aid in most people’s security not to be taxed out of their homes. What I don’t understand is your suggestion about redistributing taxes. I read everywhere that no one has the authority to just redistribute tax money as prescribed by law. The board president Joel Bryant once again pointed that out last night. It’s not that it’s not easy, it’s apparently illegal. Everyone agrees that our fire department is allocated about 1/2 the money that other fire departments get and they are running on 100 percent of that with nothing to spare. Since you don’t think getting involved and attending meetings is the answer, what then is? This stuff doesn’t get resolved on the Internet by a few Monday morning quarterbacks with an obvious disregard for the law. You are right, we have no option but to fix the problem. Realistically, how do you propose we do that other than what is discussed in public meetings?
You guys just don’t get it.
There is no point in taking money for a 4th station if the amount is not adequate to fund it for the specified period. Can you imagine the fallout from you blog commentors if the board took the money and then was not able to keep the station open for the specified period because the funding from the other entities fell short. I look at the debate as treading carefully.
There are other issues at stake here as well. The station realistically won’t open until late spring which means it will only really be open for just over a year. The new firefighters that are hired will only have their jobs guaranteed for a year and if there is no money to fund the whole year then they will start to leave in droves and the station will once again close early.
Please try not to continue to be short sighted and look further than your own nose. Most likely a parcel tax will not pass, The station, if opened, will close again and layoffs will occur. I support the board, They have limited options and they are exploring them carefully. I am not seeing anyone on here coming up with any other options…If you did, I may respect your dissenting opinions.
I am also suspicious if this money is a gift or a loan, That wasn’t really specified or talked about.
David I was at the meeting and from what I heard myself the money was offered by the representatives of the cities and county as a bridge. The idea proposed. is to buy the fire district time in hopes that the task force can better educate the people going into a vote in 2016. It was obvious to everyone in the room that the fire district blames the voters for not passing it in previous efforts but fails to take accountability for a rushed and ineffective campaigns which left us voters confused. I think that to much emphasis has been put on the interim 4th station by the reporters and not enough emphasis on the bigger picture offered up by the task force at the meeting. Sitting there it was easy to realize the main goal is to get a funding source in place. The 4th station appears to be important but secondary to the fix. If the task force fails with its recommendations the last thing anyone will worry about is laying off the new hired firefighter’s because the entire department will fail to exist. I see this as the last and final effort or the department is toast as a result of their own chain of failures, not ours. My only hope is that the fire directors come to their senses before it’s too late. They have no other options (that have shared). It is winding down to the end. The two minute warning bell has sounded and only 2 or 3 fire directors have realized it. If they don’t move forward and the public doesn’t pass a parcel tax then we should prepare for a systematic shut down of our fire department as we know it. All stations closed. I sat there with a room sparsely filled with people who firsthand witnessed a fire board that didn’t seem to understand that they only have one option. If they have another option what are they waiting for? Several fire directors and the city manager made the point in their remarks. I can only describe the vibe in the room as surreal.
It’s gifted money as a temporary bridge.
Your options are really down to two.
The “no new taxes” camp, who are completely dependent on a change at state level that will take years and possibly decades.
You pony up with supplemental taxes.
Most of the better performing suburban areas in California fall into the latter category.
Your right Dan!!! Where does that other 1/2 of the money go? Who gets it? Why? Those are great questions and a good start. Sounds like questions that would produce a productive meeting.
If someone was getting 1/2 to a 1/3 of my funding I would be upset and work to get it back. Think if it was your pay check.
It can be figured out. It will take some work and the right people have to be asking!!!!
Rob I have been following this long enough to know there are two or three questions that keep surfacing and have been answered by several sources on and off the fire boards. Your question is one of those. The president of the board explained it again on Monday night at the meeting. From what I understand tax dollars collected from us represent 1 percent of the assessed value of our homes. Think of it as one pie which equals one hundred percent of our tax dollar. In the name of simplicity that money gets collected by the county as only the collection agency. The county gets to keep their share and depending on where you live that’s about 15 percent (less if you live in a city). Then the county is prescribed by law to distribute the rest of the pie to all of the other agencies in proportions that make up the rest of the pie (schools, libraries, sheriff, fire, mosquito abatement and the list goes on). From what I see and have read up on this is determined by two things. Proposition 13 limits & allocations, which is a 1978 law made and passed by the people of California to limit automatic tax increases which at the time were beginning to scare people out of their home ownership. The other factor is nailed down to the specific area in where you live and the services tied to that location. It’s called a tax rate area which is a number that you can use to unlock the recipients of your 1 percent that we pay every year. The entire problem appears to me to revolve around this. There was no provision written into the tax law proposition 13 that took into account of a change in service from a specific provider, in this case our fire department. The pie will never exceed 100 percent so giving a bigger slice to would require de funding others and that probably won’t happen because the other service providers to us have their own budgetary woes and are equally protected by tax laws. When you break it down it’s not that complicated and easy to see how we got into this mess. The more I look at it the more I see that we have really given the lions share away to our schools while allowing ourselves to be fooled into believing they are the ones that need more money through additional bonds and assessments. Look at the pie charts that have been posted here and check for yourself. Schools with added assements are take between sixty to sixty five percent of the pie! The county and all the other service providers are left with the remaining thin slices which make up the leftovers. We have done it to ourselves and the only way I see it is to get out of this mess is by ourselves. I’m not happy about an assessment but it buys us two things. First, Immediate fire protection and Second, the time to effectively lobby our state to make nessary modifications which were not obvious when proposition 13 passed. I’m with others here who now believe that it will take at least 10 years to see change at the state level and tax laws. Actually I think it will take much longer but either way as citizens of east county we cannot afford to wait. The insurance companies will take a lot more from us if we don’t protect ourselves.
To: Bobby lott,
You are correct. It seems the wheels just spin along with the board’s options stuck in the mud.
To John Smith,
Really? You are a sick puppy.
You are REAL MISTAKEN. The county provides funds for first responder to its own Con Fire.
To Steve Smith,
Charging for medical and not having credentials for paramedics may create a challenge to any charges as a qualified first responder. I guess a good Samaritan with a card can bill too. It is a good idea. Be careful on this one.
This is what government bodies do. They spend lots of time and money for studies until they get the result they want. You know what that means. Just more wasted money and time.
You hit the nail square on the head, This is why the district is a failure and needs to be disbanded.
To buy a Clue,
Hercules Fire just settled a lawsuit to end the benefit assessment that was passed illegally. This is the same waste of time ECCFPD just finished failing and are now considering a second waste of public money to do it again. If so, the precedent has been set. You can’t pass a benefit assessment as a new tax. It will be challenged and the district will not prevail. Lets see if the district will make the same mistake a third time. Oh, and grow up.
There have been so many ideas to fix the ECCFPD it has become redundant. It appears now the problem is that there are too many board members that create a gridlock. Make the board smaller to get better agreement and consensus on the vast ideas presented and get something done,
I hope they reopen Station 95 on Bethel Island because we pay more than anyone in the district.
To: Luvs BI95,
Code for bethel island? Someone has anger issues but I guess I would too if I lived on the island and paid so much for so much less. You are def getting screwed and I feel for ya. But please, for the love of your fellow man STOP substituting your opinions as facts. Half of you list is bs and you come across as an angry old f—.
What ‘chew been smoking Willis? No one said the fire district was going to go for a benefit assesment district tax again. That would be stupid in light of the rodeo-Hercules fiasco. Expect a straight up legal parcel tax. It ain’t rocket science. Guess you still haven’t figured out the county doesn’t really run or fund any fire department either, not even con fire. So much for your opinions that you tried to pawn off as facts. You are wrong again bucko!
Maybe there is good reason they call it Methyl Island.
Luvin ya from across the bay!
New homes may be good for your coffers in Brentwood but it is a loss to the Fire District on every home. You are endangering all east county residence by being insensitive to safely. Its that greed that makes your comment look ridiculous.
Just Sayin what are you saying? Gus Vina who’s heading the task force only made recommendations to increase safety and included opening another firehouse with his presentation. Did you even attend the meeting? Where is the greed you speak of? I saw none of that and I was there. Mr. Vina did a fine job. It’s the fire board that had me and the rest of those in attendance on edge.
@Just sayin, did you flunk economics or just stupid? MR. VINA HAS BROUGHT MORE TO THE TABLE IN A FEW SHORT MONTHS THAN THE FIRE BOARD HAS IN YEARS. You wouldn’t know a solution if it [email protected] slapped you in the face. Every home in the district pays taxes dumb dumb… it’s your stupid comment that makes all of East county look ridiculous. You should keep your yapper shut!
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