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."