Fire Department Re-Org Proposal
Well, the Costa Mesa City Council continued on their trend of long, incomplete meetings with their latest confab - the Special Study Session on Thursday, May 17th. This one lasted three hours and only finished 2/3rds of the agenda.
The meeting started at 4:35 without Mayor Eric Bever - not necessarily a bad thing - and with Wendy Leece scampering in two minutes tardy. Bever never did show up, so we can only hope he's not falling back into his old pattern of missing meetings. Maybe he just stayed home to fire off more snotty emails to anxious constituents as he did over the last day or so.
The first segment of the meeting was Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold's presentation of his proposal for the reorganization of the Costa Mesa Fire Department. He was assisted with presentation by Interim Deputy Fire Chief Steve Bunting, who brought the "statistical" expertise to the program. Arnold emphasized that, as they went about building this model they kept firmly in mind their following goal: "When a member of the community calls 911, they expect highly trained, well equipped, professional and compassionate emergency responders to arrive quickly and in sufficient numbers, to effectively deal with their crisis." He emphasized that there are two words within that credo that they pay particular attention to - "quickly" and "sufficient numbers". Well, that's actually three words, but we won't quibble with Chief Arnold.
I'm not going to go into great detail because, if your interested in this subject you REALLY NEED to see their presentation. The graphics used to demonstrate the differences between our current configuration and the proposal really tell the story. As I type this the online video is not yet posted, but will be soon. So, you can click HERE, then select the Study Session for May 17, 2012 and watch their program. NOTE: The video link is now posted. View it HERE. You can also watch it on Costa Mesa TV, Channel 24 on Time Warner Cable and Channel 99 on ATT U-Verse on the following replay schedule. (click on image to enlarge)
The short version of the presentation is that it will reduce the number of fire stations from six to five - Station 6 in the north part of town would be closed. That, as fate would have it, is our newest station. Both Arnold and Bunting are NOT recommending disposing of that property, preferring to retain it for probable future use as the area around South Coast Plaza returns to a growth mode.
DROPPING SIX FIREFIGHTER SLOTS
The proposal also calls for the Fire Department staffing to drop from 87 to 81. As it turns out, there are currently 6 vacancies on the Fire Department which the City Council - in a fit of pique - has refused to allow to be filled until a second pension tier is adopted. So, under the new plan, no firefighters would lose their jobs, they'd just be shuffled around.
POSSIBLE RELOCATION OF STATION 2
Their plan did call for relocating Station 2, but they made no recommendation as to a specific location for that replacement station.
ADD FIVE TWO-PERSON AMBULANCES
The core of the reorganization revolves around the acquisition of five ambulances (maybe 6 for a spare), one each of which would be placed at every fire station. Each would be manned by a two-person paramedic team to perform Advance Life Support (ALS) responses. Eighty-five percent (85%) of all calls for service to the Fire Department are for Emergency Medical situations, not fires.
PLUS AN ENGINE...
Each fire station would also house an engine with a Basic Life Support (BLS) response team, allowing much, much more flexibility in how emergencies are managed.
FIREFIGHTERS MUST AGREE TO NEW STAFFING LEVELS
In order for this new organization to be implemented President Tim Vasin and the Costa Mesa Firefighter's Association (CMFA) would have to agree to a change in the present "minimum manning" agreement, which is part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that doesn't expire until the fall of 2014.
THE IMPACT OF THIS CHANGE
According to Arnold and Bunting, this new organization configuration will have the following impact:
- Increase the number of response units
- Increase the availability of units
- Improve response times
- Increase service to the community
- Reduce the number of firefighters from 87 to 81
- Reduce net cost by $2.6 million annually
APPREHENSIVE, BUT HOPEFUL
It is our understanding that discussions are on-going with the CMFA. We certainly understand that they have some apprehension about opening up their contract - most of the employee organizations do not trust this council because of their union-busting posturing. We remain hopeful, however, that some level of compromise will be reached that will permit a modification of the "minimum manning" element of the contract and, perhaps, the introduction of a second pension tier for new employees without reopening the entire contract for re-negotiation. I guess we'll see...
Congratulations to Chief Arnold, Deputy Chief Bunting and their staff for a creative, cost-effective solution to this issue. Now let's see if this deal can be struck by both sides. We residents certainly deserve it.
LOOK FOR ANOTHER ENTRY...
I'll cover the Capital Budget discussion last night on a separate entry. The council never did make it to the third item on the agenda - the Drainage Plan - despite the meeting dragging on until 7:30. It was pushed to the meeting of May 24th, same time, same place.