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Saturday, November 20, 2010

San Carlos: Cal Fire Says They Will Not Submit Bid For Fire Services

Citing Concern From Legislators and Opposition From Labor Groups, Cal Fire Says They Will Not Submit Bid For Fire Services

San Carlos officials received word this afternoon from Cal Fire that they would not be submitting a proposal.
By Kenny Porpora / November 19, 2010

Efforts from San Carlos to contract out fire services may have suffered a significant set back this afternoon when government officials received a fax from Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott saying Cal Fire will not be submitting a bid for proposal, a decision that has surprised San Carlos officials.

“To be successful, it is imperative that there is support for these agreements amongst all the stakeholders, including public officials, local citizens and labor organizations,” said Ken Pimlott, the Cal Fire director in a fax sent to assistant city manager Brian Moura.

“In the case of the City of San Carlos, there is concern from regional Legislative members and significant opposition from local labor organizations. Lacking support from these stakeholders, a proposed partnership could face legal challenges and be cast in a negative light by the media and the community.”

The letter sent concern through government officials, who were expecting a bid from Cal Fire due to previous interest, and an unofficial bid sent back in March of 2010.

“Something changed in the last seven days,” said assistant city manager Brian Moura. “Cal Fire submitted an unofficial proposal in March of this year, and two others in previous years when we’ve attempted this, so something changed in the last few days and I don’t know what it is.”

In a letter sent on March 5, 2010 from Cal Fire San Mateo Chief John Ferreira, Cal Fire expressed “interest in an initial proposal regarding the anticipated costs of Cal Fire providing personnel for and management of the emergency fire services.”

For the past month, the city of San Carlos has published 51 questions asked by potential bidders regarding fire services. According to Moura, the first 29 of those questions were asked by Cal Fire, indicating further interest in partnering.

“Last week, we actually began to hear they were having second thoughts,” said Moura. “Today we got a letter from the guy who is the acting director. If you go to page 2, he explains that Cal Fire has received significant pressure from local officials and local labor unions.”

“This is Sacramento politics dipping its hand into local politics,” council member Andy Klein interjected. “We’re looking for bids into fire service. Nothing we’re doing is illegal in anyway, or even unusual. What this is is, you have elected state legislatures and a powerful union. And they’re trying to block us.”

Moura, Klein, and councilmember Omar Ahmad said they attempted to contact State Senator Joe Simitian but were told the Senator was sick.

“I have been out sick Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday,” confirmed Senator Joe Simitian. My office mentioned they had heard from San Carlos. I have not seen the letter, not been in touch with Cal Fire, and have not spoken to the folks in San Carlos. If you’re asking if I’m one of the legislators who is against this, the answer is no.”

The Local 2400 fire union operates only Monday-Wednesday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and was not available for comment. Calls to Chief Ken Pimlott and Region Chief Ken McLean were not immediately returned.

“Councilman Ahmad has been speaking to our attorney to see if any laws were broken here,” said Moura. “But I just find it interesting that nobody is available to speak with us as soon as we receive this letter. I’d like to know which legislators aren’t supporting this, and which labor unions.”

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