Council To Hear OCFA Proposal Today
Just a little reminder that the Costa Mesa City Council, at its study session at 4:30 this afternoon, will hear from representatives of the Orange County Fire Authority about their proposal to take over fire and emergency medical services for the city.
WHO WILL SHOW UP?
I have no idea what kind of a turnout they expect, but Conference Room 1A is a pretty small venue. The last study session had to be shifted to the council chambers due to the size of the crowd.
TOO MANY "UNKNOWNS"
There are some pretty large holes in this proposal that will need to be addressed. Among them is the extent and cost of "repairs" necessary for every fire station in the city before the transition can take place. Some of those may be necessary and some may simply be frills - I don't know.
LACK OF SENIOR LEADERSHIP IS TROUBLING
While I understand the interest in this proposal - paid for by the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association - but I'm very uneasy about it. We currently have no senior leadership in the Costa Mesa Fire Department. We are without a Fire Chief, a Deputy Fire Chief and a Fire Marshall, each of which would certainly be deeply involved in ANY consideration of this nature. Those leadership vacancies, and the pace at which the new council seems determined to move on "change", makes me very uncomfortable for the future of this city.
RIGHEIMER "PLACING BLAME"
At the last council meeting Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer waved a copy of the proposal around from the dais, saying "We didn't ask for this, they did!", referring to the firefighters. Firefighters association President Tim Vasin stood and reminded Righeimer that the reason they offered to pay for this proposal is that there are very few resources available to any city that's interested in having an assessment of their fire operations done. The proposal can be used as a consultant report and provide guidance to the city in any possible re-structuring of the organization. That would be an excellent idea if we had senior leadership in place - but we don't.
THEY DON'T CARE
However, I doubt very seriously that Righeimer and his buddies are concerned about that. Their goal is to get rid of the pension obligation being carried by ALL employees, including the firefighters. Shifting that burden to the county organization would be just fine with them - we'd just have to write a check to the county for services like he does for his gardener and be done with it.
NOT A GOOD DEAL FOR THE FIREFIGHTERS
This proposal doesn't seem to be a particularly good deal for the firefighters. Most, if not all, will have to take a cut in pay and their contributions for medical and retirement will be greater - maybe more than 10%. It's likely that every member of the organization will have a net decrease in their paychecks approaching 20%.
A TWO-DECADE OBLIGATION
This proposal is for 20 years, with the first and only "opt out" benchmark coming at 10 years. So, if the decision is made to move forward with this it will lock the city into this contract for at least a decade. It's unlikely any of the current council will still be on the dais by that time, although it looks like Gary Monahan is determined to stay up there forever.