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Board Delays Decision On Fire Station Closures

A final vote is expected next week on whether or not to close stations in Walnut Creek, Clayton, Martinez and Lafayette.

Delaying for a week what is almost certainly a vote to close four fire stations in central Contra Costa County, the Board of Supervisors, acting as the Board of Directors for the Contra Costa County Fire District, took several hours of public testimony and asked Fire Chief Daryl Louder for more information. 

Louder, citing the failure of voters in November to pass Measure Q, which would have imposed a $75 percent tax on homes, said that declining property tax revenue and increasing costs of health care and pensions have left with fire district with no option but to close, at least temporarily, four fire stations. 

They are:

  • Station 4 at 700 Hawthorne Dr. in Walnut Creek
  • Station 11 at 6500 Center Ave. in Clayton
  • Station 12 at 1240 Shell Ave. in Martinez
  • Station 16 at 4007 Los Arabis Ave. in Lafayette

Louder told the board that the response times are already above that of national standards, and the closure of four additional stations will only make the situation worse. He is proposing the increased use of reserve firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to help offset the reduction in firefighting staff. 

Closing the four stations will save a total of $10 million, Louder said.

Elected officials and members of the public from each affected city rose to express concern about the closures, and asked to look for options that would preclude closing stations. 

"The public has spoken, and the fire district has to live within its means," said board chairwoman Mary Piepho, who noted that a fire station closed in her East County neighhorhood last year, a victim of similar budget woes. 

Patch will continue to follow this story as it unfolds. Stay tuned. 

Onions and Opinions Make You Cry December 06, 2012 at 02:16 AM
If a child stops breathing his/her parent, guardian, babysitter, nanny, or teacher should be the first responder. Why should taxpayers pay to offset personal responsibility?
Lindy December 06, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Ahhhh, spoken like a true Republican. And while you are at it let's stop allowing people without insurance in to the emergency room. If their family can't fix the brain injury or broken leg themselves, just let the person die. You probably invest offshore anyway and buy stuff out of state so don't give me crap about paying taxes. You probably DON'T pay your fair share. It's the poor and middle class who don't have enough investments /resources to buy high priced tax-avoiding CPA advice. When it comes to comments like yours Mr or Ms Onions... you sure do make me cry: FOUL!!!!
Cheryll December 06, 2012 at 04:53 AM
One problem with the "rejection of Measure Q" is that it was NOT completely shot down in the unicorporated area (precinct) of Mt.View where the closure of station 12 in Martinez is proposed. I agree with you. If people flatly rejected it - then in their own precincts then they should be the ones to lose their stations. THAT is following the "will of the people". MT.View is a modest community of people that don't make a lot of money, but they voted FOR Measure Q, for the good of EVERYBODY. They voted to raise taxes on themselves, so EVERYONE can feel secure in their homes. Even those that are a mere block from an international refinery. NO ONE should let this stand. PUSH for answers and solutions that are FAIR. THIS IS NOT IT!
Cheryll December 06, 2012 at 05:11 AM
I agree with you Steve. It may not be the only solution BUT, a reduced staff, with added measures for safety issues if it does involve a fire, seem absolutely doable. I am hoping the fire chief does the correct thing in answering the question about why or why not that cannot be accomplished. I think it is absolutely a better choice than longer response times. Having suffered through 2 seperate, but all consuming house fires here, ever single minute is CRITICAL and to tell one segment of this county that 'you' are not as important as the rest of us, or the 'others of us', is bordering cannibalism. I heard some very interesting questions from the board. The answers will be coming Tuesday and we need everyone on deck. If not at least send an email to our Board of Supervisors. This is not fair and just. And given it took a long time to get here, it is unexcusable for a public agency to get this far and have the only option be to close them one by one until they balance the budget for teach people that they actually have to pay for services.
Cheryll December 06, 2012 at 05:26 AM
That was very good information QF.I certainly agree that if there are only two, both should NOT be inside a burning building at the same time. So I think people are asking, how do we make a situation work with less, instead of not work with nothing? Could a third person be a reservist?
Cheryll December 06, 2012 at 05:28 AM
I love the idea of renters actually being willing to kick in, when it comes to some of the things that property owners pay for that benefits all of us. if only...
Cheryll December 06, 2012 at 05:35 AM
LOL, I agree with Lindy. As a matter of fact if they close our station, they can kill off a few more of us useless middle class folks and put some hard working union folks out of work, all with one stone! ...Imagine... BTW Onions, most of us aren't afraid to use our real names..we are all friends here, right?
Cheryll December 06, 2012 at 05:42 AM
I hope you have plenty of hoses and good water pressure. BTW: which station is serving you...we want to let the Board know you are volunteering YOUR fire station for the chopping block.
Cheryll December 06, 2012 at 06:55 AM
@ Steve: That's a very good idea. If it's about saving $ through less staffing (only) then it would make sense to spread the 12 individual reduction throughout the County. The way I see it, if Measure Q was our only option, and is the only other option that has been presented by the Fire Chief (besides closures) then the voters throughout the County that voted down measure Q need to all take the hit equally. No more pitting neighbors against neighbors over whose station is closing next.
Onions and Opinions Make You Cry December 06, 2012 at 09:32 AM
Lindy - I didn't realize advocating personal responsibility when it comes to the care of children was a Republican or Democrat ideal. I thought it was a human ideal. Cheryll - Real names? So you and Lindy weren't given last names at birth? And I am using my real name. Onions and Opinions is my first and middle name. What can I say? My parents were hippies. MakeYouCry is my last name. It's Irish.
Chris J Kapsalis December 06, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Some renters do pay, others do not in the form of higher rents. Much higher. I think landlords are legally allowed to raise the rent 5% a year? Or not more than 5% in one year in a 5 year span? It is different city to city. However, if your landlord finally says " I have to make up for this loss because.." and raises a renters rent the 5% on say $1000 a month, that is $600 a year, way more than the parcel tax was. Another thing to think about if yo are a renter when these non essential measures come up and want parcel taxes. You might get hit. But is it on the third or fourth prop tax increase now that the next one will push that landlord into having to raise rents? maybe.
Cheryll December 06, 2012 at 03:23 PM
OOMYC: When I worked for the City, we as employees were told that it would be expected of us (as clerical staff) to actually step in and help in any community disaster. That meant CPR and anything else that needed to be done. I would cringe to think how many people 1. Dont' know or appreciate that we are the "back up" you citizens would be looking for to help you, 2. How many people can barely put 2 matching shoes on in the morning, much less keep up to date with CPR techinques. That's just not reality. BTW: I am so sorry you had to grow up with such a stinky name. Drugs will do that. And it looks like your parents weren't acting very responsibly either, at least in THAT respect. Do hippies know how to do CPR?
Chris J Kapsalis December 06, 2012 at 03:58 PM
People help people all the time. Checking the air passage, Heimlich maneuver if necessary, stopping blood loss, pulling someone out of a lake. But if you still want F&R there ASAP. They have more tools, more skills to save lives than the average person. If someone has a stroke there is really nothing I could do, cept keep them calm and call 911. But many many times the average person will be there way before help. Someone is choking the Fire and Rescue would take too long. We can also put out a fire if we happen to be there when it is small. Long before help could arrive. I still know from Boy Scouts and other experiences, or just reaction, how to save a life if possible, and so do a lot of citizens. Just talking to someone, keeping them calm etc. can help them. I don't think people are that clueless. But we need fire and rescue as well. Both. As for CPR, it seems to change all the time, and even different org's disagree on which one to use.
Onions and Opinions Make You Cry December 06, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Cheryll - You're not a backup. You are a first responder. Firefighters and police are NOT first responders. People on the scene are. If people took this role seriously then we wouldn't need firefighters to be 5 minutes away. So, as a city employee, you couldn't put on 2 matching shoes? This explains a lot about city functions and drives home the point that city employees might be overpaid. My parents knew CPR but they were doctors so perhaps that's not quite fair. Oh, yes, Cheryll (with two "L"s 'sup with that) even hippies become doctors. Scary. I know.
Chris J Kapsalis December 06, 2012 at 04:42 PM
You still need fire and recue as soon as possible. The quicker the better. If I need the jaws of life to save someone, even though I happen to be on the scene frist, there is not much I can do. Just because people are ususally first on the scene, does not mean we don't need firre and rescue there ASAP.
Onions and Opinions Make You Cry December 06, 2012 at 05:38 PM
CJK - I agree with you but we have to live within budget constraints. I don't think firefighters are overpaid and while there may be some room to lower payroll costs on a per firefighter basis I still believe the best solution is to reduce the number of firefighters. Thus, we have to learn to get by with fewer firefighters, putting the responsibility upon ourselves to assist in emergency situations and it may mean that we have to accept the consequences of an increase in response time. It's a tragedy if it's your family member who is impacted by the increased response time but it's a sad reality that we may have to find ourselves simply living with.
Chris J Kapsalis December 06, 2012 at 06:12 PM
It just comes down to what is practical and what is realistic. We cannot have a fire station every 4 sq blocks, but we also should not have them to far spread out. That is why debate is good, and what we can afford. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices, other times we do not. That is what we will find out, just how much can we keep. The more the better to a certain point. The less the worse and so on. Money is what it is about, can we afford to keep these stations open and staffed? As I said the schools asking for parcel tax revenue did not help the cause of measure Q.
Marshall Cochrane December 06, 2012 at 11:00 PM
.Per article Contra Costa Times: " The REDEVELOPMENT areas, some decades old, allow cities and the county to siphon off taxes that would otherwise go to the Contra Costa Fire District and other public agencies. As a result, the fire district lost nearly $12 million in revenue during the 2009-10 fiscal year, the report says. PITTSBURG'S redevelopment agency was responsible for nearly ONE THIRD of that total." Pittbsburg's redevelopment activity CREATED A HUGE PART OF THIS DEFICIT...I see no station closures planned for Pittsburg...Conversely, The City of Martinez has consistently contributed 100% of its appropriate tax base with zero siphoned off by redevelopment...Please tell me, why in heck isn't Pittsburg on the list of closures...Where's the accountable? The 'problem causer' should in some way participate in problem resolution. Why is the city of Pittsburg getting a free ride and why isn't the City Of Martinez getting a "free pass???"
Quick Facts December 07, 2012 at 05:29 AM
BRAVO!!! Marshall you hit the nail on the head!!! How can Con Fire live within its means when RDA's rob them blind. You think Pittsburg's bad, take a look at San Pablo, who not only steals with RDA money, but also receives no money from the mutli million dollar casino to provide service to the area. Take a 32 million dollar hit in property tax values, add 12 million in lost RDA Money, and top it with excessive pension costs because the polticians skipped payments on the pension fund when the returns on investment where douple digit, and they let the fund make their contribution(s) instead of having that money paid in for a rainy day. Kris Hunt, Dan Borenstein, Wendy Lack all want to spin this thing into a pension issue, and have everyone think that voting measure Q down would change that. I got news, I challenge someone that like to dig like Steve Cohn, to call San Ramon Fire, Orinda Moraga, Oakland, Hayward, Richmond, San Francisco, Fremont, Cal Fire, and find out what their firefightes contribute to their own pension(s). I bet you all a coffee at Starbucks or (Peet's in Lafayette) that Con Fire employees pay the most for their retirements. Also feel free to compare salaries and again you will find that Con Fire is the lowest of the bunch (which throws out the Pollacek arguement). Do all of you know that the Firefighter/Paramedics from San Jose that got hired by Con Fire after the layoffs at San Jose all went back to San Jose because the pay and benefits are better.
Cheryll December 07, 2012 at 05:37 AM
Weren't you even there? they delayed because the whole thing stinks like onions and they are searching for better information to make better decisions. I only hope it's not too late to do that. Each one of them required more and better information to justify going down this road endlessly.
Cheryll December 07, 2012 at 05:41 AM
O&OMYC: They are currently only 3 people to a station as it IS. Have you been in a fire station in the past 50 years? It's a ghost town in there compared to years ago when a kid could go in and meet the firefighters, wear thier hats, and listen to the siren.
Cheryll December 07, 2012 at 05:42 AM
Or just make them pay their taxes.
Cheryll December 07, 2012 at 05:51 AM
To OO whatever: WE ALL put on our shoes just fine thanks- or you people wouldn't have anyone to complain to when you have a problem... and your sniping is just a teaparty hangover, dont worry about it-I won't. Sorry about the 2 LL's. It's on my birth certificate, go figure. You got one that says Onions? Never mind I really dont care.
Cheryll December 07, 2012 at 05:54 AM
Thanks for the info! I agree. The folks who have copability in this should be asked to poney up, in one way or another!
Steve Cohn December 07, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I only know MOFD and I believe that their safety employees "contribute" 24% of base salary to their pension which they consider generous. I should note that if I went to my (private sector) boss and told him I should get a raise, or at least not a pay cut, because I was putting 24% of my salary into savings so I could retire at 50 with full salary and COLA for life, he would probably need an emergency response team to resuscitate him after laughing himself into a coma. I agree that the funding mechanism for redevelopment agencies is questionable but note that while fire departments are affected (averaging 12% of property tax revenues), schools are affected four times as much. And I agree that "saving for a rainy day" is a concept completely foreign to government unless a law is put in place forcing it. While CCCERA has earned over the past 20 years close to the 7.75% they project for the future, they have only earned 5% over the past ten years. This means they must have earned over 13% in the first ten years. If they had used those earnings to overfund their plan by about 35%, they would be fully funded today. But that is not how government works. MOFD, which has seen revenues increase at twice the rate of inflation while population-served has remained static over the 15 years since they were founded, has managed to spend it all and cannot balance their budget this year. Government is supposed to have the long view not opt for the quick fixes.
Cheryll December 07, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Re: quick fixes. Exactly. And not opt for the "temporary fixes" (per Mary Peipho comments) that become permanent. How many fire stations (anywhere) were EVER reopened? If you read October minutes of the CCCounty Fire Protection Advisory Fire Commission -Fire Chief's Report, they even have planned 6 more stations to close. And that advisory body as well as the LAFCO Commission, are dutifully pledged to address this issue and have not. Instead they simply "accepted" every Fire Chief report. I dont feel well represented and this does not evoke confidence in the process for me. The area that Station 12 supports has a "delegate" on the CCFire Advisory who only showed up for 4 out of 6 yearly meetings. Maybe we just need MORE representation, but you gotta call it SOMETHING..
Mark Jones December 12, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Mary Simpson from Alamo, you obviously are totally unaware that you have 4 retired fire captains in YOUR San Ramon Valley Fire District that are making $250, 000 per year EACH in their retirement sure to their generous pensions. Perhaps you should put your provincial Pom Poms down for a moment, before putting your foot in your mouth.
jessica freels December 12, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I dont wish to fight with anyone. But anyone who thinks this is right wing anti tax people is wrong. This was lack of proper advertising. I voted for this because I knew about it, (I live near Hawthorne) but I saw no signs, no advertising on fences, nothing. It wasn't made a priority. prop 30 sure was though. It was not made the kind of IN YOUR FACE priority. people might get annoyed...but they would know. As for first responders, I agree what people do is their first response. But being able to slap a siren on the car and speed down San Miguel, I don't get to do.
michael Davey December 12, 2012 at 06:05 PM
How can anyone want a closure to the fire stations. I may only be eighteen but I have my EMT and I'm in course to be apart of a fire academy next semester and to me this is heart breaking cause I grew up watching station 12 hoping one day i'd work there, I have volunteered down there before and all those guys are great. I understand why some didn't vote cause I get it property tax is getting crazy and most people aren't getting any richer but yet in previous years we have voted for parks and pools to be redone, I'm just saying when your response time could have been two to seven minutes and now is ten to fourteen and the person you loved is dying who is it to really blame remember how much your emergency services does for you
Steve Cohn December 12, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Michael - no one (well, almost no one) wants to close fire stations, have longer response times, or fewer emergency responders. But as I was quoted back in July of 2009 in a Wall Street Journal article about Pete Nowicki's $240,000 per year pension, "these guys may have priced themselves out of a job." (http://www.fairfororinda.org/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/090720-wallstreetjournal.pdf) And so it has come to pass. ConFire is closing 14% of its stations so it can reduce staff by 14% with more cuts coming. Nowicki's and some other retirements in excess of $200,000 are the exceptions, not the rule, but even the average cost per firefighter is staggering. The Orinda Task Force report shows the average MOFD firefighter costing $235,000 with that cost increasing to over $300,000 if amounts are allocated for currently underfunded retirement liabilities. (http://g.virbcdn.com/_f/files/c2/FileItem-265318-Table_IV3_employee_cost.pdf) This cannot be maintained. Orinda and Moraga already spend over half of their local taxes on MOFD (MOFD's budget exceeds the combined budgets of Orinda plus Moraga). Everyone appreciates your commitment to emergency services but you, and others in your profession, have to start expecting, possibly demanding, reasonable compensation so you can provide the service you want to give.

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