If Measure S passes, the district will hire additional firefighters and add paramedic firefighters to district engines. If the tax fails, the district must lay off half of its 48 firefighters, close three of its six stations, and restrict district medical services to the basic lifesaving level currently provided. Advanced lifesaving services in the district are now provided by American Medical Response paramedics under a separate agreement with Contra Costa County.
Local 1230 president Vince Wells said at Monday’s ECCFPD board meeting that it didn’t make sense to craft a new agreement now, not knowing how many firefighters the district will employ or what their training levels would be. Contract negotiations will resume in July once the fate of the tax is known, with particular emphasis on post-employment benefits.
“We understand that there’s a major concern about hiring new firefighters with all the same current levels of benefits,” he said, adding that the same concern exists countywide. “We are in discussions about pension changes in all jurisdictions we serve, including East County.” Local 1230 also represents firefighters in six other Contra Costa County departments.
Also at Monday’s meeting, Fire Chief Hugh Henderson said work continues on a “balanced budget” service model that would be implemented should the tax fail and layoffs be required. The model will show how resources would be deployed should the number of stations in the 250-square-mile district be cut to three, as well as coverage maps and estimates on the response times the scaled-back department would likely be able to provide.
The balanced-budget service model will also include the impact that fewer ECCFPD stations would make on mutual- and automatic-aid agreements with surrounding agencies. The district already draws assistance from nearby agencies about twice as often as it provides assistance in return, Henderson said.