ECCFPD: Plan B Does Not Exist

There are a few folks out there spreading false rumors about Measure S and want it to fail because they claim there is a “quick” solution. These folks have not done their homework, if they had then one would realize that should Measure S fail, East County will not return to the current service levels we “adequately” enjoy today for at least a few years.

The reason it will take multiple years to get back to today’s service levels is because the district is broke. It takes money to implement courses of actions that some opponents of the measure suggest as viable options. The bigger problem these folks cannot seem to grasp is should Measure S fail; CALFIRE does not have to accept East County as a client.

You see, unless CALFIRE can turn a profit in East County, they are not going to take on the added responsibility and headache—especially with a statewide debt of $16 billion dollars.

Here is a hypothetical scenario and timeline that could play out if Measure S fails.

June 5 – Votes reject Measure S
The opponents (mostly out of District folks) can enjoy their moment of victory for a few weeks and then reality sets in for actual East County residents. Plan B all of a sudden needs to occur immediately, but the only problem is there is no plan B nor money available. The board has been working on Plan A since 2002—Measure S was the plan!

July 1 – three stations close and 50% of firefighters are laid off.
You end up with 3 stations, 9 firefighters on duty trying to cover 250 square miles which is nearly impossible under this service model. Meanwhile, ECCFPD will be in a position to abuse mutual aid and will soon be billed for all services further putting the District in financial ruins. The reality is CONFIRE aid is stopped and visa-versa.

Its stoppage is not to punish ECCFPD, but because of funding, each District no longer has the luxury financially to help out. For example, Antioch and Pittsburg taxpayers pay into CONFIRE—if voters in East County fail to fund our fire Department, why should Antioch and Pittsburg and other cities within CONFIRE pay to fund us? It’s not CONFIRE punishing us; rather it’s a case of East County voters punishing themselves.

It should be said that most Fire Districts do have closed borders, we are fortunate enough to currently have open borders where agencies help one another. Post July 1, that luxury is gone!

Note: board is unable to take action because they will need to get public input on a course of action. This isn’t like closing a grocery store. One closes you can shop somewhere else and wait a little longer in line. In this case, there are no additional fire services available; you are waiting longer for a response that threaten lives.

August/Septemberstanding room only crowd at Board Meetings
People see the error of their vote and demand fire services be reinstated after the reserves have been spent. Proclaim the District did not alert them to the problem and importance of Measure S. The residents of East County will make the following suggestions based on being told the following items would be able to be implemented immediately thanks in part to the Contra Costa Times and the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association.

  • Board of Supervisors –they are not required to provide Fire Services nor will they open their pocket books to do so.
  • CALFIRE–With a statewide budget problem of $16 billion, they will likely not take on a bad contract at this time. We would be considered a “bad investment” because there is no profit in it for them as they would now be forced to hire firefighters just to service the contract. The misconception is CALFIRE will save the day; the reality is they won’t touch us.Not only would it not pass muster at LAFCO and labor approval (which would be needed), what everyone was forgetting is that during the original bid process CALFIRE underbid. They did not realize that CONFIRE was providing everything from training, mechanics, to communication (dispatch). Knowing that all of those would have to be accounted and paid for by the new entity they simply could not compete.The reality is there is no one that could run the department any cheaper since these guys are already working for 40-50 cents on the dollar and are somewhat subsidized by the county (including inspection/prevention).

    It should also be noted CALFIRE works that A/B shift so it becomes a 72 hr. work week. That doesn’t work in municipal departments such as East County. It works in “forestry” or very rural settings such as Marsh Creek—or East County 20+ years ago.

    When people suggest CALFIRE, it’s nothing more than a distraction because it’s DOA!

    Let’s say they do contract with East County, now they have to invest in staff time, the hiring process, and training. All of that could take six months and there is no guarantee their service matches what we have today. Using Morgan Territory Road as an example, that took six months to get CALFIRE involved with a single station. Under this new model, an entire East County implementation would take longer which could be up to a year at best. Meanwhile, we are stuck with 3 stations and 9 firefighters on duty.

  • Ballot Measure #2 – residents will see the effects of a 3 station model and demand a second ballot Measure to fix the problem. Sounds great, but it takes money to get it on the ballot and campaign for it. The District is broke and now unable to even get a solution on the November ballot. Even if it did make it to the ballot, at this point it will now be more than the $197 and likely need to be more than $250 per parcel.
  • Volunteer Firefighters – It will be suggested, but only as a last resort. The problem with a volunteer firefighters is the geography of East County—most people work an hour away! Could you imagine a 911 call and trying to rally volunteers who work in San Francisco or Oakland? Do you think one can simply stop what they are doing from work and make it all the way to Discovery Bay in time to save a house from a structure fire? It’s silly but a reality under this scenario.When people do suggest implementing volunteers, they fail to consider or talk about the money side of it. Note to Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, this implementation does take a nice chunk of money the District does not have.  The District is broke and setting up a program takes staff for the hiring process, the training, and supplying the equipment. Even if this did move forward, it takes time to hire and train and would likely be a 9-month to a year process at which point, we still are receiving less service than we are today.
  • Loans– I wasn’t going put this one out there, but multiple people have now suggest this really bad idea. This can be dismissed because we have a money problem and no one is going to loan to a broke District. We would never be able to pay it back unless we see skyrocketing home prices again.

Each of these scenarios above take time to implement, it just doesn’t happen overnight as some suggest. In the meantime, we are stuck with 14-15 minute response times.

Measure Costs vs. Household Income

Let’s look at this Measure another way, lets look at the Measure S costs vs. Household income. Over a 10 year period, the opponents of Measure S proclaim they do not want to pay a maximum of $2,200. But what no one talks about is how little that is compared to the household income of East County.

According to City Data this was the following median housing income:

  • Brentwood – $86,914
  • Bethel Island – $35,625
  • Discovery Bay – $98,982
  • Oakley- $73,490

Combining these four cities, the average median household income is $73,752.75. Over a 10 year period, the average household income will equates to $737,527.50. Putting that into perspective, $2,200 is peanuts or less than 0.25% of one’s household income over a 10 year period.

Skyrocketing Insurance
I get it; people do not want to pay $2,200 over 10 years. But any savings by Measure S is offset by insurance premiums increasing. According to the Brentwood Press, which I’ve myself written many times, homeowners’ insurance for some residents in the Morgan Territory area quadrupled in the wake of the district’s closure of stations in 2010, and some policies were cancelled entirely, threatening the underlying mortgage. The same is likely to happen in other areas of the district should stations close, according to State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones who used the term “skyrocketing insurance premiums” should Measure S fail.

Don’t take Mr. Jones word for it; insurance premiums have already gone up in the District which opponents claim as a situation that wont play out in the rest of the District–they are wrong, this scenario will play out even in Brentwood.

It’s a reality that some resistance on Morgan Territory Road wish was a just scare tactic and not their reality. Whether or not you are within the five-mile radius or not, you will see an increase of some form.

Not Scare Tactics, its reality
The opponents against Measure S like to claim ECCFPD is using scare tactics and want to accuse Vince Wells and the District of bluffing. With no money past July 1, three stations and 50% firefighter layoffs are real because there is no“Plan B”. This is rather a juvenile claim by the opponents of Measure S because its a reality, not a scare tactic.

If the District is bluffing, then some should try their luck at the World Series of Poker.

The reality is there is no quick fix because it’s like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube—it’s difficult and it will take some time. While the fix is attempted, be reminded of the last several weeks with the fires and tell me if we can afford to wait two-three years for Plan B to play out? Look at all the lives that will be affected!

It’s physically impossible to ensure “adequate” service with just 3 stations, 9 firefighters on duty trying to cover 250 square miles which is nearly impossible.  Even with five stations now, we rely heavily on CONFIRE and CALFIRE.

Mark my words, June 5 is the day. There will be no revote for quite some time! Once the stations close and the fire fighters are laid off, it will take a long time to set up an alternative.

THERE WILL BE NO MONEY LEFT to hire volunteers, to contract out services, or any other solution suggested. Once Plan B is enacted, it will take many months to plan and maybe years to implement. In the meantime, once our insurance rates increase, we are stuck with them! Have you ever known your insurance rate to decrease? I didn’t think so!

People are free to want to roll the dice, but you shouldn’t do it with other people’s life. It’s our responsibility to ensure public safety and for just $197, it’s a small sacrifice to ensure a 5-minute response in an emergency as opposed to 15-minutes.

Help our brave firefighters help you!

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About burkforoakley

I call it like I see it . I love my city, I love my community and I want what is best for the people around me. Do the right thing, I will support you. Do the wrong thing, I will oppose you!
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5 Responses to ECCFPD: Plan B Does Not Exist

  1. jeff b says:

    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 $10,000,000.00 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 way 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 dept 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 Con Fire 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/2-hat/reserve or other less than full time programs for strategic use and to supplement 2 person crews on a regular basis as the primary source of the 2nd (or 3rd) 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%) 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 (5 already exist in CA).

    7) The BOS must give up multiple offices and 50% of their overhead (they 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 separate fire funds 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.

    • Thanks for the 10-year plan yet again Jeff. You missed the point of the article which is we can’t afford 50% services today why do you suggest a 10 year plan? If Measure S goes down, it will be at least 2-3 years before services even return to today’s service levels, but you want a plan that takes 3x longer? You boggle my mind sometimes.
      Measure S is fine because the only thing it does is buy 10 years to actually solve the problem which is take the battle to Sacramento in order to adjust Prop 13 funding allocations—that is the solution, no silly gimmicks!
      1. New District – good luck
      2. Tiered Comp Plan – is already coming
      3. Define meaningful and who gets to decide
      4. 2 person crew should be dead on arrival.
      5. ECCFPD does not have a management/Admin problem to begin with
      6. No
      7. Are you kidding me? What does BOS staff have to do with fire services? You are comparing apples to oranges. They have multiple offices due to the size of the County. Why should Discovery Bay residents drive all the way to Martinez to say hello to Mary Piepho?
      8. CALFIRE structure works for rural areas, not cities!
      9. Sounds good in theory but you need to protect entire district equally, need to be strategically placed for ALL situations.
      10. Do you realize if this occurs, AMR will come back requesting more money due to new contract terms? CALFiRE is not obligated to service ECCFPD.
      11. This is silly, how do you strategically predict emergencies by time and by day or by season?
      12. Prove Brentwood has funds specific for fire services? Show me in the budget.
      13. From what I understand, these fees are for building of a fire station or purchasing equipment (large items) not to servicing residents. Similar to what occurred with Summer Lakes where they promised to build a fire station after a certain target was hit.
      14. If this plan was logical as you state, there would be no need for another Measure to fund the fire service.

      • jeff b says:

        the NEW district is the foundation of the plan. No NEW district no solution to the forever problem. Very simple.

        My tiered comp plan calls for no tier higher than the national average (this is the corner stone of the plan). This county can not afford any more than that. Right now, as it is, ECCFPD pays as good or BETTER than places in this state that cost way more to live than Antioch or Oakley.

        The other 12 points will surround the foundation and corner stone with leveraging and other cost management steps that will yield for this county, for the first time, a sustainable fire/EMS function and will yield job security for the NEW district’s employees.

        I’m sorry but I can not just sit back like you and bob and blindly accept the dysfunction of CCC government. None of my 14 points are original or innovative, its all basic stuff that anyone who really wanted to rise above the special interests would consider as part of the solution. Not every point holds the same value in the solution and not every point must be included but to outright dismiss every point and offer no others makes you the number one special interest/ politician cheerleader. If you take that as a complement, as I think you might, then……you are welcome.

    • Bob says:

      Actually, Jeff, your 14 points are IMO just a cleverly cloaked attempt at introducing third world level compensation to public employees in the district. The area is well above the national average in cost of living, but your “plan” doesn’t pay anything above average cost of living. Meaning by default you are treating public safety as second class citizens.

      For those familiar with the way you interact with people, that will come as little surprise.

      But to continue to copy and paste a dictatorship type approach to the problem and call it “job security”. Funny, yet insulting at the same time.

      Oh, since you’re certain insurance rates won’t rise, you might want to tell this Chris Tallerica guy in the comments section of this piece:

      http://hercules.patch.com/articles/response-times-expected-to-double-with-fire-station-brownouts

      Oops, there goes your $197 savings. For the bonus round you now have only half a fire department. Just don’t be in a hurry when you need to call 911.

      Brilliant plan you got there.

  2. Bob says:

    Jeff, it’s clear you have no ability to roll up your sleeves or get your fingernails dirty.

    Sorry, but it’s put up or shut up time for your 14 point plan. Grassroots efforts run purely from keyboards as you are attempting to do simply waste electrons. They never get taken seriously. By anyone in a position of authority.

    You should start by learning what government can and cannot do in this situation. How many times have you picked up a phone to talk to an elected official about this issue in the last 2 years to further your understanding? I’d be willing to bet it’s less than I have in the last 5 days. You are speaking from a position of complete ignorance surrounding the issue, which is your biggest problem.

    Then learn about movement of funds and what’s allowable. Your friends John and Don(yes, Don, I see you are a fan as EastCountyReader) simply don’t have a clue. Plus, why is it the 3 of you all have one overriding common theme. You all expect somebody else to pay for getting the district on solid financial footing. Every one of you has gone after another agency’s or city money and none of you is willing or able(take your pick) to understand why the problem exists in the first place.

    There has been no significant development approved in the unincorporated areas by the BoS in the 15 years that this has been recognized as an acute funding problem. What happens in the cities is up to their governing bodies. The BoS can’t control that. So begin by coming up with something better than that tired line of “the Board of Supervisors has to fix this”.

    The Board of Supervisors does not owe you a fire district, or a pony. It’s that simple.

    You’ll get the fire district you are willing to pay for. Nothing more, nothing less. A “no” vote doesn’t send any message back other than you understand the consequences of what the exiting $8M will buy you in terms of fire coverage. There is no choice for “try again” on the ballot and anyone thinking they are sending that message is only fooling themselves.

    Vote Yes on Measure S.

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