Casual readers of this blog may want to pay closer attention than usual.
This coming Tuesday, January 24, the Fullerton City Council will entertain a study session to review the merits of folding the Brea and Fullerton Fire Departments into one. If approved, the Fullerton Fire Department, and it’s 108-year history as we know it, would cease to exist.
Thanks to a 3-2 vote (YES: Fitzgerald, Flory, Chaffee. NO: Whitaker, Sebourn) a new government agency was formed with the City of Brea on October 18, 2016. The North Orange County Cities Joint Powers Authority is its name.
A merged Fullerton and Brea Fire Department would no longer be under the direct control of either the Fullerton or Brea City Councils. Instead, it would be governed by this new JPA — whose board members will be unelected. That is a board which is directly accountable to nobody. Two City Council members from each city, appointed by their respective City Councils, will govern the JPA. That’s not a typo — it really is two members from each city — meaning there is no tiebreaker vote.
The study session follows on the heels of a recent JPA Feasibility Study whereby the case to merge fire departments is rather weak.
We already utilize a shared fire command with the City of Brea. Fullerton’s projected costs under that existing arrangement are shown below, in blue. Fullerton’s projected costs under the JPA are shown in yellow.
The consultant, Citygate Associates LLC, says not to worry about the $300-400K annual cost increases under a JPA as those are within “model variance”. (Note: The above figures are in thousands)
Later in the study, however, they lament that neither Fullerton or Brea have a fire headquarters building large enough to house the administrative staff, and recommend one be secured. The costs of doing so are not included in the study. They also recommend hiring more administrative personnel.
Some of the basic assumptions:
- No fire stations would be closed.
- No fire positions would be eliminated.
- Unfunded pension and medical insurance liabilities remain the responsibility of each city.
- The consultant also concludes that Fullerton Firefighters would be given a raise to match Brea Firefighters:
By far, the worst — and most insulting — element of this study has to do with ambulance services, currently provided to Fullerton by private contractor CARE Ambulance. To offset the increased costs, they are proposing the JPA take over as the ambulance provider, buy a fleet of ambulances, and raise rates charged to people like me and you.
Let that sink in for a moment. Being transported to the hospital by ambulance is never cause for celebration. Some patients will be dead within hours or days of being transported. Others may be disabled and unable to work for long periods, if ever again.
Come back tomorrow for another post on how the JPA wants to capitalize on your misery.