|Coastside Fire Protection District|
Stand-alone department on fire district's agenda
Cal Fire’s days of serving the coast may be numbered if the majority of the Coastside Fire Protection District votes tonight to reestablish a stand-alone department.
The state agency’s contract with the district does not officially expire until next year but the board has been studying for months whether the coast would be better served by a stand-alone department despite a recent San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury report critical of the effort.
Meanwhile, San Mateo County Chief Elections Officer Mark Church has approved recall petitions for board members Mike Alifano, Doug Mackintosh and Gary Riddell by a group of coastside residents who say the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is saving them big money while fully staffing their stations.
“They want to go back to the old, discredited model of a stand-alone department,” said Moss Beach resident Mike Gaynes, one of the leaders behind the recall effort. Gaynes and those who want to keep Cal Fire on the coast have 120 days to collect enough signatures to get the recall on the ballot.
Cal Fire has saved coastside residents nearly $1.5 million, Gaynes said.
Tonight, the board will continue discussing a resolution introduced June 27 on whether to establish a stand-alone department and start recruiting for a new fire chief.
The board voted previously not to extend a contract with Cal Fire beyond 2013.
Prior to Cal Fire’s arrival, fire departments on the coast were a costly mess, Gaynes said, resulting in more than $1.2 million in lawsuit settlements and legal fees as well as high turnover and poor morale.
Reestablishing a new fire department for the coast would be a costly endeavor, Gaynes said.
“We’ve got no more scandal, no more firefighters suing their own department and we are spending less on overtime,” Gaynes said.
But Alifano told the Daily Journal yesterday that the alleged savings are due to Cal Fire providing less service on the coast.
“It has been an emotional ride but it is time to put it to bed,” Alifano said. “What we need to do is explore shared services long term with other local agencies and we can’t do that with Cal Fire. We need a chief who works at the pleasure of the board who we can trust.”
Riddell, who is a retired Half Moon Bay firefighter, told the Daily Journal previously that the civil grand jury simply does not understand what the fire service needs are on the coast.
Riddell testified to the civil grand jury on Cal Fire’s shortcomings and why a stand-alone department would give greater local control to the district but said many who sat on the grand jury had a hard time understanding the difference between wildland fire service, such as what Cal Fire provides, and a municipal fire service.
Mackintosh, the president of the Coastside Fire Protection District, said the civil grand jury took a high-handed tone in its report, especially since its members are “amateurs” with no knowledge of the community’s fire service needs.
Mackintosh said a stand-alone department could be more of a shared services agreement with Pacifica, Central County or other agencies.
Board members Ginny McShane and Gary Burke support staying with Cal Fire.
The Coastside Fire Protection District serves Half Moon Bay, the unincorporated areas of Half Moon Bay and the unincorporated communities of Miramar, El Granada, Princeton-by-the-Sea, Moss Beach and Montara.
Previously, the Half Moon Bay Fire Protection District and Point Montara Fire Protection District provided service on the coast but the two consolidated in 2007 to form the Coastside Fire Protection District.
Prior to the consolidation, the Half Moon Bay Fire Protection District was beset with operational, labor management, morale and legal issues, according to the civil grand jury report released in April.
The Coastside Fire Protection District Board of Directors meets 6:30 p.m., tonight, 1191 Main St., Half Moon Bay.
Source: July 03, 2012, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff - Link
The San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury 2011-12 report
California Fire News 2012