Measure S contains no plan at all to solve the long-standing financial problems of the CCC fire departments. Because there is no comprehensive solution, the responsible thing to do is to vote NO and push our elected officials for a real solution that does more than just consume massive tax dollars, an example of which is outlined below.
With this tax, a community the size of DB will be paying in at least an additional $10,000,000 and that does not buy any service level commitment. As many have pointed out, this new tax will eventually cause the separate AMR paramedic with a quick-response vehicle stationed in DB to be removed … this will be a huge loss.
What if the paramedic-fire engine is on a fire call and this AMR vehicle did not exist? DB is a large population center and is a long way from the next station or ambulance base. This AMR quick-response vehicle needs to stay and is much better for DB than having the third person on the fire engine being the only paramedic in the area. And remember: AMR paramedics do not consume any tax dollars … fire department paramedics do!
Outlined below is a 14-segment proposal to fix the CCC fire/EMS financial situation. This plan, although not perfect, does provide financial sustainability and firefighter job security. It will not be easy or overnight to implement and some will hate it, but it is an all-encompassing plan, and nothing of this magnitude has been brought forward by the tax proponents or the fireboards.
Key point … this plan does not call for fire department employees to do anything unique and dangerous, or participate in a compensation plan that is less than standard in city/metro paid/full-time fire stations across the country.
1) Create a brand new (not a merged) CCC county fire/EMS entity that will be the foundation for the savings necessary for financial sustainability and job stability going forward. This foundation will include at a minimum:
2) Implement a tiered comp plan that does not exceed the national average even at the highest tier (former ConFire people would be taking a definite cut; former ECCFPD people not so much).
3) Meaningful pension and benefit reform. This is essential and will have major impact further into the future.
4) Inclusion of POC/two-hat/reserve or other less than full-time programs for strategic use and to supplement two-person crews on a regular basis as the primary source of the second (or third) crew member in select regular station staffing scenarios. A target should be set that at any given time a certain percent of the staff on duty at stations (say 20 percent) would be something other than full time.
5) Leveraging of management and administration, including a reduction from current levels that exist in the separate FDs.
6) All county EMS oversight under one roof and under the administration of the fire chief. Join or start a regional EMS consortium (five already exist in California).
7) The BOS must give up multiple offices and 50 percent of its overhead (it can make it up with office holder accounts), with the savings going directly to EMS.
8) Use of the most cost-effective shift structure like Cal Fire uses. The union will fight this but it works for the largest fire department in the state.
9) Variable deployment/crew size strategies … the population centers get more, rural gets less.
10) Maximization of vendor support (such as Cal Fire and AMR) and vendor deployment. Maximize use of AMR to provide paramedic services in most locations.
11) Strategic station brown-outs (by time, by day, by season).
12) The potential exists for specific communities such as Brentwood that have other revenue streams for public safety to supplement their basic coverage.
13) Absolute commitment to implement P-zone/district like supplemental fire/ems revenue programs for new development in all areas served by the new county fire/EMS entity (Pantages is a perfect example).
14) After the details are worked out and implementation has commenced, then and only then, if more revenue is needed, the voters will consider a new tax that would certainly be smaller than Measure S. To succeed, any new tax must have some form of roll back should other revenue sources increase. The tax now before the voters will fail; a tax as proposed herein, that is the last part of an overall plan, will likely succeed.
Vote No on the “No plan” Measure S and press those in control for a real solution, such as the above 14-segment proposal.
Jeff Barber, Discovery Bay