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Four Fire Stations On The Chopping Block on Tuesday

The Board of Supervisors will consider a plan to shutter a Lafayette station and three others on Tuesday.

Fire and county officials on Tuesday will consider closing four fire stations, including one in Lafayette, to close a budget gap that has been growing since the recession of 2008.

The move is necessary, said Fire Chief Daryl Louder, due to the failure of a proposed parcel tax increase by two-thirds of voters on the Nov. 6 ballot.

In a report to the county Board of Supervisors, Louder said the 2008 recession caused deep reductions in property tax revenue, which primarily funds the fire district. Service levels were maintained until now through the spending of reserves.

To make up for the loss of property tax money, the fire district proposed a $75 per parcel tax in November. Measure Q received a majority of votes but not the two-thirds super majority it needed to pass.

And now “the reserve funds have been expended and the district can no longer afford to maintain current service levels,” Louder said in his report to the board.

Louder said the fire district is already falling short of meeting expected service levels and response times, and the closure of additional stations will only make matters worse. But the move will save the district $3 million.

The four stations proposed to be shuttered are:

  • Fire Station #4 – 700 Hawthorne Drive, Walnut Creek
  • Fire Station #11 – 6500 Center Avenue, Clayton
  • Fire Station #12 – 1240 Shell Avenue, Martinez
  • Fire Station #16 – 4007 Los Arabis Avenue, Lafayette

The four stations are slated to close in early January. Louder said he plans to take some actions, including using the reserve force to provide coverage for closed stations, increasing the number of emergency medical technicians during peak hours, and other efficiencies.

But Louder makes it clear that none of these steps will make up for the presence of the stations in these neighborhoods.

Louder will meet with the Board of Supervisors Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in the board chambers, 651 Pine St., in Martinez.

What are your thoughts about this? Tell us in the comments. 

Joshua Halloway December 04, 2012 at 05:49 AM
You left Con Fire only to create a separate organization that's headed for bankruptcy. I call that foolish. I would hope if Lafayette left Con Fire it wouldn't be stupid enough to form another entity that's also going to go bankrupt. MOFD is hardly a business model to emulate.
Steve Cohn December 04, 2012 at 03:50 PM
OK. I am with you there. When Orinda (and Moraga) formed MOFD, service, not long term liabilities, were the issue (the newly formed organization created that issue all by itself). What Orinda did wrong was dump the "problem" into the lap of a new, untested agency and then walk away. Most of the Orinda Council still says "it is not our problem" (but double-talk that their residents' safety is of prime concern). So what can Lafayette do if ConFire "abandons" them and uses their taxpayers' revenue to subsidize the rest of the system? "Going it alone" (forming their own fire department) is probably not an option. The city would have to assume their portion of the retirement benefit liabilities that ConFire / The County have accrued. Since the community (the press) laud the Lamorinda cities for having dodged the pension liability issue (by sloughing it off on others; not that their taxpayers have dodged it), no city council is going to bring that liability onto their books.
Steve Cohn December 04, 2012 at 03:51 PM
I see two main options for Lafayette: 1) Contract services from some provider as opposed to just hand the taxes over and hope for the best. A contract would allow the city to define the services although there is not a lot of choice in providers so the "price" might not be controlled by the city, only the amount of service. So if the city could not afford three three-person stations, it could ask for one three-person station plus two two-person stations (which the union would probably fight) or the city could raise its own fire flow tax to support three "full service" stations. Since all of the providers have built up huge pension and retiree medical liabilities, the cost of which they need to "pass on", their rates would include those costs and Lafayette could not dictate prudent actions in the future other than leaving one provider in favor of another. It choices of providers would be ConFire itself, MOFD, maybe CalFire, and an outside chance at Alameda County Fire. Actually, I am not sure Lafayette could walk away from ConFire and contract out without assuming its share of the liabilities unless the entity they were contracting from agreed to accept these liabilities. This would probably require a rather long term commitment on Lafayette's part to the contractor.
Steve Cohn December 04, 2012 at 03:51 PM
2) Join MOFD (which would shift the pension liabilities from one agency not consolidated with Lafayette, The County, to another, MOFD) but force MOFD into a reorganization which gave Lafayette some control over MOFD's future actions. First it would have seats on the board. These would be controlled by Lafayette's voters, not the Council, just as MOFD's current seats are controlled by (and not understood by) Orinda and Moraga voters. Since Lafayette has about 50% more residents than Orinda or Moraga, a board could be comprised of two each from Orinda and Moraga and three from Lafayette; no one city having a majority. Lafayette residents should also demand that the city itself (since residents seem to pay more attention to what their council does) continues to be involved in the functioning of "its" fire department. Orinda's Council pledged (or insinuated) this when MOFD was formed 15 years ago but then turned its back and now does not even remember that it, and not a rogue group of citizens, formed MOFD. One way to do this is force MOFD to create a standing community advisory committee. This committee might have six members, two from each city, with one of those two members being a city/town council member. This committee would act as an "audit" committee, overseeing, but obviously not able to dictate, the MOFD's actions. This would bring tension to the operation of MOFD but tension is good. It is sometimes called "checks and balances".
Joshua Halloway December 04, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Joining MOFD would be the worst option imaginable as MOFD would find a way to make Lafayette pay for MOFD's poor fiscal management. No thanks. It's too bad MOFD is such mess but it shouldn't look to pass that irresponsibility onto other innocent parties by dragging them into MOFD's mess.

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