Fire and county officials will consider Tuesday closing four fire stations, including one in Walnut Creek, to close a budget gap that has been growing since the recession of 2008. The move is necessary, fire chief Daryl Louder said, due to the failure of a proposed parcel tax increase by two-thirds of voters in November.
In a report to the county Board of Supervisors, Louder said that 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 parcel tax in November. Despite major political endorsements and a big push from the fire district, 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, which he says it otherwise does not have.
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 in the board chambers, 651 Pine St.
What are your thoughts about this? Tell us in the comments.