The closures, accompanied by 15 firefighter layoffs, came after voters in June rejected a parcel tax aimed at offsetting plummeting property tax revenues.
“Our station closures have had an impact,” Henderson said, noting that the greatest increases are occurring in areas previously served by stations closed last month. Calls that would have been answered by downtown Brentwood’s Station 54 took 1:34 longer than the average call in June, while calls formerly answered by Knightsen Station 94 took 1:05 longer. The greatest increase was in Bethel Island, up 5:02 from June.
Henderson noted that the Bethel Island increases were especially high because the Island’s Station 95 had its best June in two years. Most incidents occurred within a mile or so of the station. Compared to the average times since January, Station 95’s times increased 3:31 in July.
Overall, the district’s response times rose from 6:24 to 7:10, an increase of 36 seconds from the average response time during the first six months of 2012.
The board also addressed a list of suggestions on how the district might approach future operations. Gleaned from community meetings and Internet posts, some ideas, such as requiring sprinklers in new buildings and re-opening contract talks with union Local 1230, have already been implemented.
Others, such as charging people from outside the district for services received from ECCFPD – as often happens with auto crashes – will get another look. Henderson estimated that between $75,000 and $100,000 per year could be gained by such a cost-recovery policy, which is already in use in other districts.
“When we were looking for millions of dollars, that amount seemed like small stuff,” he told the board. “But looking at our budget now, another $100,000 would be a huge help.”
The board directed Henderson to prepare a brief report on work that had been done previously on the list’s other items for review at September’s board meeting. The report will also include ideas that surfaced at Monday’s meeting, such as forming a citizen’s auxiliary to help with non-emergency work and creating a nonprofit foundation that could accept donations from the public.
Also Monday, the board passed a resolution supporting a historical designation for the Bethel Island station. Built about 1951, the building has been condemned for toxic mold and asbestos. Laws passed since its construction require all buildings to be elevated above the flood plain, making re-habbing the property unfeasible. The historical designation eliminates the flood plain requirement, although no commitment to repair or even maintain ownership of the building is required as a result of the board’s action.
Henderson also provided a brief report on the effort to see if enough residents are interested in serving as volunteers to justify the implementation of a volunteer arm of the district. The board last month set a target of 40 applicants to initiate a volunteer branch, but so far only 14 district residents have applied. An additional eight applications have been submitted from people who do not qualify because they live outside the district.