ECCFPD Needs Three Station Model and Long Term Solutions

Measure S has come and gone and it’s now time to move forward and be productive with our time focusing on solutions rather than fighting. I understand emotions still run high, but it’s time for the fighting to stop.  We have big decisions coming up and our focus should be there. The community needs to rally behind a three station model and then work on a long term ECCFPD solution.

One would think Mondays ECCFPD Board Meeting  is a slam dunk decision as a three station model is in the best interest of the entire district, but Brentwood is apparently making a last minute effort to ensure they have two stations while the rest of the District is jeopardized.

This is part of the reason why the Board needs to get councilmembers out of there and go to an elected Board. People are more worried about their elections as opposed to separating their council seat from board duties. More importantly, the safety of the community and our firefighters needs to be weighted instead of reelection votes.

On May 7, the District put out the following options depending on the Measure S outcome which lays off either 16 or 19 firefighters come July.

Three-Station Model – consists of stations in Brentwood, Discovery Bay, and Oakley. All three stations would be staffed with three personnel consisting of a Fire Captain, Engineer, and Firefighter. The Three-Station Model has higher staffing costs, but those are offset by a reduction in day-to-day station costs. Operating service out of three stations reduces the wear on tear on the existing equipment and will provide additional capital equipment for rotating in and out of service. A three station model would require 27 fire personnel compared to the current 43 FTE’s.

Four-Station Model – consists of two stations in Brentwood, and one station each in Discovery Bay and Oakley. All four stations would be staffed with two personnel, consisting of a Fire Captain and Engineer. The staffing costs associated with the Four-Station Model are reduced by three personnel from the Three-Station Model. This option requires additional day-to-day expenditures associated with an additional station.A four station model would require 24 fire personnel compared to the current 43 FTE’s.

(Note: a three-station model keeps more firefighters on duty and employed.  Also reduces forced layoffs)

STAFF’S RECOMMENDATION:  Staff is recommending the Three-Station Model (Brentwood, Discovery Bay, and Oakley), to provide a fully staffed three personnel engine company to respond to emergencies within the District. This model provides the best service model for the District as well as the safety for our District and Firefighters.

Clearly, the three station model best protects the district and does not handicap our firefighters from doing their job.  Two man crews would be a disaster for the district because it’s a band aid approach which gives the appearance of better coverage, but ultimately it handicaps our firefighters from doing their job while it also ensures a greater risk of injuries both to them and the folks they try and save.

But more importantly, two man crews cannot effectively fight a fire or enter a building—they have to wait for backup.

Brentwood has four votes (Joel Bryant, Steve Barr, Robert Brockman and Erick Stonebarger) on this board; they only need one more vote to ensure they have two stations while compromising the rest of the District.

This means that the rest of the Board (Kevin Romick, Pat Anderson, Jim Frazier, Robert Kenny, and Cheryl Morgan), which holds the majority needs to stay strong and refuse to give into the nonsense of a four station model.

Should these votes hold as outlined, by way of a 5-4 vote, the District has a three station with three man crews!  Personally, I expect a 6-3 vote in favor of a three-station model.

If this Board does decide to go with a four station model, it throws a lot of people under the bus who fought hard for Measure S starting with the firefighters and Local 1230. They will lose my support and I know many others will also walk away from this.

I encourage folks to show up Monday and encourage a three station model. If you can’t show up, contact the Board or your councilmember on the Board and chime in.

Long Term Solution Talks Should Begin Now
With a service model chosen by the Board set to begin July 1, the last thing this District needs is an idle board. The real work must begin in July starting with the move to an elected Board, but more importantly the band aid approach can stop being presented and real solutions can be addressed as it will take years to implement and return to the levels we currently find adequate.

I know Measure S was not a perfect plan and more of a band aid approach, but what I did know is it protected emergency services for 10 years while better plan could be created and implemented—that is why I supported it as I was not willing to play Russian roulette with public safety.  For the record, I’d support Measure S again in a heartbeat, however, due to Measure S going down, we no longer have that 10-year luxury.

While many have offered drive by solutions, including starting a brand new district, personally I’d like to see a consolidation of CONFIRE and ECCFPD which should be discussed immediately and see if it’s even financially feasible. The problem is combined, it’s an $18 million debt while CONFIRE pays more into the property tax allocation than does ECCFPD—so its funding needs to be level for it to work. One group of people should not have to pay more into it—again; this gets back to Prop 13 issues which is the problem.

For this to work, a lot of things need to be put in place. But bigger than my preference is the experts who do this for a living need to be involved.  It’s bigger than any one board, it’s bigger than elected officials, it will take many people wearing different hats to get on the same page to put a plan in place that protects everyone’s interests.

It will require a lot of give and take and a lot of trust—not to mention open minds.

I would urge such a meeting that involves the ECCFPD Board, a representative Board of Supervisor (preferably Mary Piepho since it’s her district), Vince Wells and union representatives, state officials, firefighters, local residents, and the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association’s Kris Hunt.   This diverse group all needs to get on the same page for anything to have success going forward.

If they have to take a book out of our Founding Fathers, lock up the stakeholders in a room for three days until they figure it out, do it!

Whatever plan is chosen, the sooner a plan is in place, the sooner we no longer have three or four stations covering 250 square miles + water.  One thing is clear, it will take more than a single Board to get anything moving.

Elections are emotional
Finally, I do want to touch on some of the rhetoric going around which I myself realize I got caught up in. Let me just say that I do not encourage violence, retaliation or any personal harm to anyone who opposed Measure S. We all had to pick a side and battle lines were drawn—that is politics and it is nothing personal.  We should be able to argue, yell, scream and fight about the issue all we want, but when it’s done, we should be able to go have a beer or dinner with our opponent and act civil.

I urge people to understand that Kris Hunt was paid to do her job—which was to advocate against Measure S. This is no different than Vince Wells being paid to do his job—which was to advocate for Measure S. Both of them had the same job, they just had different perspectives on the issue.  One or the other was simply better liked based on the position each of us believe in.

While I do regret some of the rhetoric used to attack opponents in an attempt to correct their misinformation, I do not wish them any harm and I apologize if I appeared to make it personal, it was never meant to go that far. After having reflected on some of the things I wrote, let me just say I am passionate about Oakley and East County politics and will serve as a reminder that next time I will need to keep my emotions in check as opposed to sticking with the issue before I post something.  Measure S taught me something and it will make me a better person next time.

Elections are supposed to be emotional, but we need to remember to keep them from getting personal next time.


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 Needs Three Station Model and Long Term Solutions

  1. Jeff B says:

    I agree with some of this commentary but there is no doubt this county needs a brand NEW, from the ground up, fire/EMS entity.

    If you disagree say exactly why you think a merger with an upside down, debt-ridden FD with a huge wage rate is better than starting fresh with one that is designed to meet today’s reality. And starting fresh does not necessarily mean 100% of the past goes away.

    There will never be a better time to proceed in this (new FD entity) direction than now and in this county there will never be FD financial sustainability and true FD job security until this is done. I don’t know all but I can’t see any way to close the near-term spending vs budget gap (and keep stations open/re-opened) other than to leverage and lower the day to day cost structure. If I were doing it I would rather install the various changes into a new entity from day one rather than shoehorn them into a problematic one that exists and is entrenched. And no way should the two county FD’s be merged…that just plays into the union’s hands and we know how the voters feel about stuff like that. The message is clear, every where a vote is taken….the public wants sanity and they no longer will tolerate special interest pandering….heck in SJ some of the biggest panderers lead the charge to reverse their irresponsible behavior.

    This is going to take some lawyering and some guts to bring forth. In the long run the ECCFPD (former) employees are going come out better off working for a new & stable county fire/EMS entity.

    And again, I don’t know all but I have been told long ago by all sorts of folks who do purport to know all that in this county there is no such thing as strict return to source pertaining to the property tax money we pay in. If there was, a dense place like DB with decent property values and little overhead would be crawling with cops and street crews and all sorts of additional county spending. And if return to source did exist many places in this county would have virtually no fire department services at all. We all pay the same tax rate and for suburban settings of similar density it all balances out.

  2. Bob says:

    Jeff, I predict you will get more frantic over the coming months. Particularly after July 1 when all of the disasters you were warned about start to show themselves. It’s going to get real ugly.

    For months, if not years now, you have insisted that all the rest of us are just too stupid to listen. You insist it is we who need to “wise up”. You insisted it is we who need to just ignore reality, ignore the laws, treat our fire fighters like crap or just like a commodity that you bring in or throw away on a whim.

    You insisted we should just take away their pensions that were agreed to even when nobody in ECCFPD has any of these $100k retirements that your group insisted are the problem. You insisted that they are overpaid and despite making concessions for years now are expected to make more and more. You have implied those concessions must be a never ending process and that the endless practice of eroding wages and benefits is actually “job security”.

    You have implied that all the professionals who have done fire fighting for years just aren’t as smart as you understanding what is proper staffing and deployment. You have proposed 1 man superman stations exist and while we either scratch our heads or ask for more information, you just ignore us or again imply we’re just too stupid to act on some obvious solution that you heard about.

    You have told us we’re too stupid to see that fire fighters paid at 20% above the national average in an area where the cost of living is 40% above the national average is a bad thing and their buying power and standard of living should be reduced even further. You have decided for all of us that fire fighter families who might be able to just barely afford a home in this market should be cut back in compensation so that possibility of home ownership is removed going forward. You have insisted that we all just need to “figure out” that fire fighters are just public service sector second class citizens who don’t deserve the same opportunities of the private sector.

    You have insisted that even though they have chosen a noble career that due to physical requirements of the job makes it a young person’s profession, that they should push their bodies to work longer and risk breaking down or adding to a list of permanent disability cases. You suggest that since they were willing to take those risks that we should just push them as hard as we can. When they break, you’ll just find new ones. They are, as you many times have implied, just a labor commodity in the big picture.

    You have insisted that those of us who have invested countless hours speaking to elected officials, asking questions, researching the law and getting a full understanding of the issue dynamics are just too stupid to not see that your seat of the pants, low information approach is the better option. You have told us repeatedly that you “talked to a guy” who knows something about fire and that should trump all the time we wasted phoning officials or looking up state laws to better understand what can and cannot be done.

    You have insisted that those of us who have actually read the last municipal service review done on fire shouldn’t have wasted our time trying to understand why POCs were problematic in the past and we should stop wasting time trying to learn from those past mistakes. You have insisted we should instead just do it again because it’s cheaper in the short run and the disability and liability money that will be wasted later is not worth worrying about.

    You have insisted that elected officials who have legal counsel at their disposal on a daily basis are just too stupid or too afraid to act when they won’t violate laws governing gifting of public funds or Proposition 218 requirements.

    You have insisted that those areas who appreciate and understand the value of public safety in their neighborhoods and have taken action in the past by imposing assessments upon themselves(ie. Orinda-Moraga) should now share that burden they pay for with you. You have implied that just because assessments which do have a return to source requirement under the law are in place, you pay the same 1% base as they do so you should get equal services. Whatever assessment burden they did in the past to protect themselves is their problem.

    You have insisted that those of us who look at the combined $18M deficit between ECCFPD and ConFire and the combined 400 personnel are too stupid if we think you can’t extract 18 million dollars of savings through just compensation reductions. You have implied that just because simple math and common sense say that is not possible, we should just drop our belief systems and get onboard with your plan. Whether we think it is poorly researched or not.

    You have insisted that elected officials who work every day with the complexities that a county of 1 million people brings with managing government are just too stupid to see that you can run over the rights and desires of the majority of constituents in order to cater to the vocal minority who refuse to put any skin in the game or pay to protect their services as they have.

    You have insisted that the EMS department of county health, who has a wide range of responsibilities for the entirety of the county but has limited funds, are too stupid to see that they should be cutting off those other mandated services they deliver to instead spend their budget money for fire protection which they are not legally required to provide you. You have implied that the legal jeopardy they would put themselves in is worth it if it saves you the $16/mo that maintaining services through a different option could have accomplished.

    You have insisted that 17% of the registered voters in CoCo County saying “no” is a clear mandate for all of the ideas you have stated over all these months. You have implied that those of us who only saw an assessment to maintain services or a refusal as a willingness to accept cuts are too stupid to know any better. You imply that we just are not smart enough to read minds of voters like you do from afar.

    Well, Jeff, after months and months of you insisting that I’m just too stupid to see the light, I’m developing a bit of a complex. Now I don’t know how to run big grassroots campaigns such as the one you’re proposing here. But perhaps it is again because I’m just too stupid to understand that you win the hearts and minds of people you need as foot soldiers and allies in this grand plan of yours by constantly belittling them or calling them political trash. Maybe one day down the road after you have solved this very complex problem and convinced people that as public employees they just need to tolerate being treated like crap or like just a labor commodity and you have brown beat enough of them to work for minimum wage or slightly above with next to no benefits or retirement, that you can come back here and explain to all of us slow people the secrets of your success.

    Jeff, I’ll leave you with this before I go curl up in a fetal position somewhere. I’ve been assured that your letter to the Supervisors has been accepted and is being given every consideration that it deserves based on the viability, legality and with consideration of the tone in which it was offered. I’m sure a positive outcome from that process is just around the corner.

    Now put your seat belt on. We are expecting some turbulence beginning in about 3 weeks.

  3. Jeff B says:

    super excellent spin and hyperbole. if this is a tryout to be a union flack then you are shoe-in.

    your interruption of my commentary is 100% wrong in every respect.

    If you want to put forth an opinion or comment, fine it is your opinion or comment. But when someone else does so please do not take it and interrupt it, twist it and re-write it to make it seem like something that it isn’t.

    But I did call out the BOS on this (like I have done before) and my ‘opinion’ stands …if they continue to run from this important issue I consider them political trash. and to save you the trouble I will interrupt the term political trash…it means ‘worthless’; it means getting paid to do a job and not doing it; it means caring more about special interest than that million or so folks who live and work in the county.

  4. Bob says:

    Sorry, Jeff, for whatever it is I interrupted.

    The BoS doesn’t get paid to run ECCFPD. There are so many other stretches of logic in there I wouldn’t know where to start. But it’s sooooo unlike you to completely skip over the points made to launch a personal attack.

    ……or not.

    Looks like your spell checker is broke, so it now matches perfectly the broken caps key on your laptop there. Do you really expect to be taken seriously when you’re sending letters like that to county officials?

    But good luck with that campaign. Looks like JG just raised you with a 17 pointer……errr, 27 pointer? Whatever.

    First one to 50 wins!

    • David Palacio says:

      Ummm Hey Jeff, I believe Bob nailed it and trust me many people agree with him as well. This is 2012 not 1973. You can say that Bob 100% twisted everything you said however he did not. Maybe you Sir should go back and read what you have written in the past. A very large number of people ignore your post now cause they are so out of line. Okay now you can slam me back and attempt to justify yourself.

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