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Two More Fire Stations Slated To Close

The board of supervisors agreed to close a Pittsburg station in July, and one as yet unnamed in January.

By Bay City News

A Pittsurg fire station and one as yet unnamed station will be closed this year and next.

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors today approved a plan to shutter two stations as the local fire district struggles to close a massive budget gap.

The board voted to close Contra Costa Fire Protection District Station 87, located at 800 W. Leland Road in Pittsburg, in July, and another unnamed station in January as part of the district's ongoing service reduction and fire station closure plan.

Fire Chief Daryl Louder said the upcoming station closures should save the district about $3.3 million. The planned closures will follow the shutdown of fire stations in Lafayette, Martinez and Walnut Creek and the drastic service reduction at Clayton's lone fire station.

Like those stations, the Pittsburg outpost was selected for closure based on a mix of factors including the station's typical call volume and the ability of neighboring stations to absorb those calls.

Louder reviewed what led up to the closures.
          
He noted that the district gets most of its revenue from local property tax assessments, which were hit hard by the Great Recession, according to Louder.

In addition, the district's required contributions to health care and pension plans have soared in recent years.

Measure Q, a parcel tax measure meant to raise enough taxes to cover the budget gap, failed to receive the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass in November's election.

That left the district with a $17 million budget deficit and few other options to fix its finances, the chief said.

Even before the two additional fire stations close this year, Louder and other fire officials said, the district's fire crews are already stretched too thin.
          
"I have serious doubts about our ability to provide protection for our community and I have serious concerns about our personnel operating out there," the chief told the board this afternoon.

Many of the supervisors today acknowledged that the decision to shutter more fire stations is a necessary evil, but one that will take its toll on the community.
          
"The service level deficiencies...are seriously negatively affecting our communities and the safety of our personnel and it's a really sad set of circumstances," said Supervisor Mary Piepho, her voice breaking with emotion.
          
Vince Wells, President of the United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County, who was the sole public speaker at the meeting, said he appreciated the board members' level of interest in the fire district's problems.
          
However, he also reminded them that more than 50 percent of voters did approve Measure Q last fall and urged the board to "work toward a plan to
keep the fire stations open, aggressively," adding, "This is a crisis."

Cautiously Informed May 08, 2013 at 04:18 PM
The fact is that staffing levels even before any cuts were made were 20 to 30 years behind the times. In other words, as the county grew, the department never kept up. I've lived in the Martinez area my whole life, and have seen a very large growth in population and development, in the last 50 years, here in the county. So, as the department dwindles away, I think we all will be paying for our fire protection in other ways, like higher insurance premiums, more loss of personal property from more fires, businesses having to install more and more built in fire protection devices and systems, higher tax rates for things like injuries and workmanship compensation(drastically increased workloads equal increased injuries and burnout), and so on and so on. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
WC-Independent May 08, 2013 at 04:51 PM
The finances are insane. The contracts with the district were/are not affordable. Nothing even shows the $75 parcel tax would've made a difference. Time to do what the business world does when the math no longer works, 're-structure'. Provide better services within financial constraints. What about consolidating ConFire with Lamorinda fire to save money, other ideas. Louder's getting what, 300K plus a year? Make it work sir.
Johnson May 08, 2013 at 06:03 PM
It is not easy making cuts but if you don't Have the money you don't have the money. There are plenty of other cuss that can be made before fire. For instance they have more bailiffs at the courthouses than they ever could need. I don't think that every court needs one. Civil cases certainly don't need them. As a matter of fact most courts around use security companies at the does. not Contra Costa we have to pay for all sheriffs all the time.' l
JClark927 May 08, 2013 at 06:17 PM
It all starts with pension reform. When the insanity in that area is fixed, the rest, like changes in response protocol for medical calls, will fall in place. (BTW: the math works for very substantial pensions if both the employer and the employee contribute 10% each for 30 years. Insanity is when the payout is not based upon realistic returns, the politicians vary contributions and unions rationalize end of service spikes.) A defined contribution approach is one option that will keep everyone honest. (BTW: this ignores retiree medical, which must also be funded -- probably mostly as a reduction in pension payout.)
Johnson May 08, 2013 at 06:26 PM
CourtReporters are another unnecessary tax payer expense. They set in court on a full time salary but work less than 20% of the Time. Those jobs could be contracted on an as needed basis and the people needing those services should be the ones who pay those bills. I'm sure there are more than a few administrative jobs that can be Cut before the publics safety is put in jeopardy
Cautiously Informed May 08, 2013 at 06:58 PM
The fire service not responding to medical emergencies will save money? That's a fallacy promoted by the uninformed pubic and the grossly slanted media. If firefighters are in place and on duty, will money be saved by them responding to fewer calls? Maybe it will lower fuel costs for their vehicles. And, do you really think that the ambulance companies, like AMR, who would pick up the slack if the fire service stopped responding to medical calls, would do it for free?
mikedude May 08, 2013 at 08:36 PM
The county has not even *begun* to get its finances in order. It's no surprise the county is claiming there's no money for adequate staffing: they're all being grossly overpaid! Firefighters can spin how 'heroic' their job is all they want; the reality is that being a firefighter is significantly less dangerous than even the national *average* for work-related death based on the latest statistics from the US Bureau of Labor. A simple fisherman is 60 times more likely to die on the job than a firefighter. A pilot? Over 20 times as likely. The 'danger' associated with firefighting is completely imaginary and has no basis in reality. Furthermore, the majority of calls firefighters respond to do not even involve a fire! They're simple medical 'emergencies.' These could be dealt with better and at cheaper cost to cities and counties using actual EMTs. Of course, the firefighters' union would hate this because it would show how much of a firefighter's 'responsibilities' are completely unnecessary and could be better served using other people. We need to start getting realistic about what levels of staffing and pay are actually sustainable and what is actually *necessary*. Crying for more money and claiming the sky is going to fall otherwise is not going to solve anything.
Cautiously Informed May 08, 2013 at 10:16 PM
I guess the two firefighters that died a few years back attempting to save the husband and wife from their burning house in Richmond was just an imaginary occurance. Firefighters die while working on the job, but most of them die from illnesses like cancer, from long term exposure to toxins and carcinogens, later in their lives. That's the part the public doesn't hear about. So, you don't really know what your talking about.
mikedude May 08, 2013 at 10:43 PM
There are any number of jobs that have occupational exposure to carcinogens and subsequent increased risk of cancers. Firefighting is not even remotely unique in that regard. Things like mesothelioma from asbestos exposure that can be directly linked to occupation are already included in the Department of Labors Statistics.
Cautiously Informed May 08, 2013 at 10:49 PM
The rates of firefighters contracting illnesses, compared to rates for the general public, is unique.
mikedude May 08, 2013 at 11:14 PM
Repeating a false statement does not suddenly make it true. There are *plenty* of occupations with cancer risks roughly equivalent to the cancer risk in firefighters: painters and construction workers, mortuary workers, miners, chemical and plastic manufacturers, steelworkers, farmers, the list goes on. They all have rates that are significantly higher than the general public.
Cautiously Informed May 08, 2013 at 11:33 PM
I disagree. Firefighters are exposed to a vastly higher variety of carcinogens, from different types of fires and smoke, from responding to hazardous matrial spills, and the likes.
mikedude May 08, 2013 at 11:40 PM
Sure, the exposures are different (or at least more varied), but the cancer risks are the same. There was one analysis done that looked at 20 different types of cancer.. only half of them were even associated with being a firefighter. For the other half, there was zero association. Then again, I don't know why I bother presenting you with facts, since you seem to only be concerned with what you feel or perceive, not what is actually true. You can disagree with reality all you want. You're still wrong.
Cautiously Informed May 09, 2013 at 12:05 AM
I guess you and you alone are the absolute bottom line source of data and facts.
Cheryll May 09, 2013 at 02:36 AM
The $ come from different pots. The voluntary tax hike was the only legal avenue other than grants from homeland security, which have successfully saved at least two firestations in CCCounty. Interesting that we are submitting grants for some stations not others. Can't grants be sought for each station? YOu would think a homeland security grant would certainly have been available for the station sitting right next to the martinez refinery, if those funds are somehow warrented for Pinole.
common sense May 09, 2013 at 11:59 PM
Face it people, the firefighter union has no poblem sucking as much money out of the taxpayers as they can. How much do you think it costs to provide health care after retirement to the retired firefighter, their spouse (domistic partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, divorced spouse, pick one)?? Time to change the way they staff, like 8 hour shifts you know days, nights, graveyard shifts. Then pay a fair hourly wage $20-25 an hour and a fair per cent of their retirement and health care. Let them pay like the rest of us. Time to restructure the whole fire department to live with in its means!! Who has what it takes to do it??
Cheryll May 10, 2013 at 12:50 AM
A usual, the Fright Wing screetching betrays which news you really read, but just a hint...Firefighters dont make all those big bucks you are accusing them of EARNING which includes their benefits. I am not a firefighter but union employees bargain at the bargaining table for benefits and that has been in LIUE of wages for years and years. We ALL took a hit two years ago that amounted to between 8 & 10% reduciton in our meager (many of us) incomes and went without increases for nearly 10 years (because we actually got a whopping 2% in 2008 so I want to be completely honest-we did get something ONCE!) But cost of living increases stopped 10 years ago too so now being a government employee means we make between 12 and 18% less than our counterparts in private industry jobs. Get mad at the people you SHOULD be mad at. The top 1 to 5% earners (and thats not you chump) who dont even pay as much taxes as WE do. And the retirements we earned that you complain about are completely affordable except for another Fright Wing attack on pensions (PEPRA) that REQUIRES having the funds paid before they are needed. Thats not the way this works and neither is Soc security supposed to work that way. Its stupid and hell bent to destroy working families, so join that group if you want evil doer. You are wrong.
Cheryll May 10, 2013 at 12:57 AM
http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2013/05/math-should-trump-politics-in-california-pension-debate/
mikedude May 10, 2013 at 01:28 AM
Cheryll: You cannot even remotely compare your position as the 'average' government employee to that of a firefighter. Do you know what the *average* total compensation for a firefighter in Contra Costa county is? $168,000 per year. Firefighters retiring now after 30 years of service are getting yearly pension payments upwards of $100,000 per year. This is NOT SUSTAINABLE. A private sector employee would have to have saved MILLIONS of dollars over their lifetime to come even close to being able to sustainably withdraw $100,000 per year in retirement. As more and more money gets diverted to these lavish pensions for public employees, there will be less and less to provide any actual services for the residents of this state (short of instituting massive tax increases). You mention that you make less than your supposed private sector equivalent... you absolutely should! You take a pay cut to work for the government in exchange for the benefits and your pension. The rest of us actually have to *save* for our retirement. As for your absolutely ludicrous mention of PEPRA, you seem to completely ignorant of the fact that the bill was not only submitted by a Democrat, but was passed with overwhelming support from BOTH parties. It boggles my mind that you think pension funds should not maintain healthy levels of funding; if they don't do that, they run out of money! Money is not going to magically appear out of thin air when the funds run dry to make up for the funding gap.
Cheryll May 10, 2013 at 03:36 AM
@mikedude, thats just a load. We SHOULD make less becauwse other people dont take any of THIER income and put it into savings/retirement accounts? I'm sorry, it's MY fault because people either can't or don't save for their future? The difference is I dont have a CHOICE about those "savings". They are distributed thusly even if I cant afford FOOD. And the public such as yourself think you have some attachment to those savings. ThAT is ludicrous.And your mention of "a democrat" and both parties was because they were all drinking the coolaid only NOW (because they are reading the fine print) finding out how they hurt all the little guys like myself while they were SOLD the idea that this would only afffect "certain" other segments of "public employees". Twist and grind.. ANd HEALTHY levels are NOT the amounts that we are being forced to fund these accounts in advance of our getting to retirement. You worry about the public's possible liability if we were to not show a profit but that has not happened and we got a 10% return on our funds when we were only required to have 7.75% last year. But you are missing the point, that even you almost made. MOST PUBLIC EMPLOYEES are NOT paid even close to $100,000 a year. And your figures abouve are also scewed but that might be because you are reading the stats off the Times site. They are erroneous and they refuse to fix them and tell you the truth. if you are a retired firefighter then please let us know...how much DID you make?
mikedude May 10, 2013 at 03:51 AM
Cheryll: You are delusional if you think the Democrats were simply 'drinking the Kool-Aid' when they OVERWHELMINGLY approved PEPRA. PEPRA does virtually nothing to cover the costs of *current* state employee retirement. All of the new requirements are for future hires. This state will collapse under the weight of the pensions of current employees long before new employees ever reach retirement age. The Democrats bowed down to their union masters, as is typical of them. They get to parade around claiming they've fixed the pension problem, when in reality they've done simply done some hand-waving and expect everyone to fall for it. The unions chose to throw all of their new and upcoming members under the bus to keep the gravy train rolling for their current members. It is also clear from your responses that you have ZERO understanding of how pension funds work. You cannot cherry pick a single year and extrapolate those yearly gains to infinity. This is extra why gains and losses are 'smoothed' over multiple years in projections to account for year-to-year variability. The return last year was nice, but we're also bouncing back from one of the worst recessions in the history of this country. Do you seriously think you know better than economists as to what level is 'healthy' for a pension fund? Also, I have no idea where you got the idea I was ever a firefighter. Clearly reading comprehension is not your forte.
Cheryll May 10, 2013 at 04:24 AM
PS @ mikedude: Our CCCERA Pension funds are built on the security of our wise and managed investments which are out performing most if not all the other retirement account systems like those trying to be FORCED for us to partake in so that a few billionaires can get richer off of us & they create more monopolies.The system is also based on a relatively stable employee base which continues to pay into it-albeit less because we have sustained these cuts.I am working today for pensioners already retired and the coming employees will do the same, thats the deal. You are right. I would have to make a mill $ to get the poultry $1000 a month I am going to get in retirment.So I can have a bare minimum living as an senior. No gravy train here. Not like Walmart that hires min wage employees so taxpayers can subsidize health care for the families of those workers, and Walmart can claim tax breaks -even locally -for minimum wage jobs, no american dream EVER jobs. County decisions to fund the billionaires life styles of sheltering money (in the guise of "new jobs at any cost" instead of paying reasonable taxes can be happening right here in CCCounty. But beat up a fireman and his family if it makes you feel better. In the meantime, while you turn blue argueing, people are dying form the fires not being put out and the heart equipment that could have been on scene in 3 minutes instead of 10.
Cheryll May 10, 2013 at 05:07 AM
@ mikedude, you have tried to have it all ways in your arguements and then you throw in the kitchen sink. First "Dems voted overwhelmingly" (along side repubs of course) and then "They get to parade around claiming they've fixed the pension problem, when in reality they've done simply done some hand-waving and expect everyone to fall for it." If that's what you think about PEPRA why are YOU supporting it??? SO really this is just about verbally combatting things you really DONT fully grasp. and why dont you tell us how you REALLY feel about Unions? If it wasnt for union people and the things my family has fought for for decades, we wouldnt even have 5 day work weeks. No sick time, no weekends off. Slavery is the next step for us if you have your way...we are deserving of no standard of living. Only you I guess. Your figures above are OFF and again reflect you as a Borenstein follower. Even HE will admit his information's deficiencies. You probably should work a little harder at this.
mikedude May 10, 2013 at 06:14 AM
Cheryll: Again, your ability to understand what you read is abysmal (no surprise that you work for the government). Where have I ever said I supported PEPRA? Never did. It's a useless piece of legislation because it will accomplish nothing. You continue to try and deflect from the fact that your beloved Democrats were the ones that wrote the damn bill! They OVERWHELMINGLY voted for it to be made law and even Jerry Brown agreed with it! But of course, in your head it's tyranny from the evil Republicans and the Democrats had absolutely nothing to do with it. Just like there is some massive conspiracy by the evil rich people and the people that run the pension funds all around the country that are incredibly underfunded; yes, their understanding of the economics and viability of these funds to actually pay out the promised pensions is clearly inferior to your own. I'm shocked they haven't put you in charge of CalPERS, since you are clearly so knowledgeable. Continue to live on in your delusions. You're free to try and put words in my mouth all you want. It only shows your own ignorance.
Cheryll May 10, 2013 at 11:09 PM
How bout we take pensions out of the equation? Do you think our state or even the Federal budget would be better off without? H*** NO! Pensions aren’t causing state’s budget to suffer! It is a very small amount of payroll that pays for pensions. AND if you did take away all the investments that pensions invest in the economy!?... the stock market would collapse with all the billions of $ it would no longer have from pensions. Do your economists take that into account? Do they take into account the employees continued contributions into the funds over many years has built the economy up? I think NOT. I think when these fame seekers which we call columnists give their OPINIONS on pensions they are trying to sell their PAPER! That’s it! They use words like “unfunded liability” as if no more money would be put in the retirement systems and the flow of money just stops. There is no funding. They don’t tell you that the employees pay into it and they pay their taxes too. They didn’t tell you when the rate of return surpassed the set 7.5% and took in 23%. You are right about one thing, smoothing. Which I won’t get into with you cause you’re an idiot.You can buy that pile of s*** that SOME media sells to you. I think we should ALL have pensions! Our employers should ALL invest in their employees so that we END UP WITH a STRONGER older America. Not one that has their retirees living in poverty and barely making it. After all we are ALL going to get older.
Cheryll May 10, 2013 at 11:12 PM
Pt2As for Pepra? New employees are screwed for sure and the Counties are saving big time $$. Does anybody ask what they are doing with all that savings that they are realizing while they clamp down on employees salaries as low as $25,000/year? Unions all across the state took concessions after concessions before Pepra went into effect. CCC employees are already paying a 100% of their retirement. Retirement contributions increased dramatically all across the state on employees who have suffered soaring healthcare costs, restructuring of benefits so they pay more of what they bargained for in lieu of wages over the years. ***Unions and EMPLOYEES OF THEM are the ones that stepped up to the plate only to be hammered some more by the ruthless right wing-nuts out there that don’t know WTF they are doing. I’ve had enough! I pay out the *ss for retirement and benefits trying to keep my children with healthcare and have something for my future as a senior citizen. Our members call and ask if they can they stop their retirement contributions because they can’t afford it, they need to pay their health care. They ask if they can drop their healthcare because they need to buy food or save their house! I feel like I’m working at Wal-Mart.
Cheryll May 10, 2013 at 11:15 PM
And Pepra was only a PIECE of the damage befalling employees’ pensions. Thenl6 months ago, came 340 & 197. And that definately DOES effect current employees. And CURRENT employees already PAID for the benefits that 197 seeks to remove. WHO GETS THAT MONEY I ALREADY “SAVED” FOR? It was a DEFINED benefit! How about "if YOU don’t need a union then YOU try walking into your bosses office and ask them to set up a 401k for you and tell them you will pay for it out of your earnings, JUST like we do. See what they say!" If you don’t NEED a union, YOU take responsibility for what you want! Don’t seek to REMOVE what OTHERS have ALREADY worked for. That's just jealous and evil.
mikedude May 10, 2013 at 11:23 PM
You seem to have pretty serious anger management issues, Cheryll. You should really see a doctor about it.
Cheryll May 10, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Unfortunately there's no cure for having to deal with pompous idiots who speak derrogatorily about puplic employees who are supposed to lick thier feet over gratefulness over jobs that DON'T sustain families and they wouldn't be able to do if thie life depended on it, but dont want to pay a single $ for the services they get.
mikedude May 10, 2013 at 11:31 PM
You have a lovely weekend, Cheryll.

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