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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

CAL FIRE Wife starts recall when city tries to change CAL FIRE contract

Recall effort against Atwater councilman draws some disapproval, still moving forward


ATWATER -- A recall drive sparked by a councilman's consideration of ousting Cal Fire to save money is rolling forward, but doesn't have support from all local movers and shakers.

A group of residents have taken steps to recall Councilman Jeff Rivero after he supported the idea of ridding the city of its Cal Fire contract and instead shifting back to a city-run fire department.

Recall organizer Danielle Buzbee, whose husband is a Cal Fire employee, said getting rid of Cal Fire would reduce public safety in her growing city and wouldn't save the budget any money. Supporters of the change think the move would save thousands without dealing a crippling blow to the city's fire protection.

Buzbee said her group's gathered 22 signatures that were needed for the intent to circulate a recall petition. Once the paperwork goes through, the group can look toward getting signatures for the recall.

"I'm extremely passionate about this and I'm not going to let it go," she said.

Buzbee said she plans to run for the council position, adding that she wouldn't take any monetary council benefits if she wins the spot.

During a meeting with City Manager Kathy Kivley at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Buzbee hopes to talk about the plan for the fire department and the plan to bring the city out of debt. She'll also be meeting with Rivero at 2:30 p.m. Friday about the same issues.

During last week's City Council meeting, Andy Krotik, a strong public safety advocate and former Atwater councilman, urged the backers of the recall not to pursue the endeavor.

"While I recognize it's every voter's right to do so, the timing could not be worse," he said. "The city is struggling financially, and I am told that a recall -- and I'm told by city officials -- the costs are around $40,000."

With an already short-staffed Atwater Police Department, the recall could take more resources away from that entity, Krotik said.

"Scrap the recall idea," he said, adding that voters will have the opportunity to vote in new council members when the November election rolls around.

Though Jeff Rivero's term isn't up until 2014, the terms of both Mayor Pro Tem Joe Rivero and Councilman Gary Frago -- the other two council members who supported moving back to a city-run fire department -- expire this year.

"I do find it ironic, though, that a group supporting the recall are proponents of public safety, yet a recall would take away valuable general fund money that supports the Atwater Police Department," Krotik said. "So again, I plead with folks, scrap the recall idea."

Buzbee said she spoke with Krotik about the recall.

"I told him, 'Give me another way, because in five months, we're not going to have a fire department, or we won't know what kind of fire department we're going to have,'" she said.

Cal Fire and the city are still in talks over budget numbers. Kivley didn't return phone calls to discuss where the negotiations are at.

Jeff Rivero said because of issues with city's Cal Fire contract, he motioned to end it and negotiate with Cal Fire for a new contract while looking into a city-run fire department at the same time.

"It would not be prudent for a council person to blindly sign an old contract in which management showed great concerns," he said.

Since he hasn't been presented with the numbers yet, Jeff Rivero hasn't made a decision whether to stay with Cal Fire or move back to a city-run fire department.

"But a special interest group that has obvious self-profiting intentions will neither bully me nor scare me into voting their way," said Jeff Rivero, who was re-elected to his seat in November 2010.

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