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/September– standing 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.
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!