Friday, May 18, 2012

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. 

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.


Their plan did call for relocating Station 2, but they made no recommendation as to a specific location for that replacement station.

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.

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.

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.

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
Since new equipment in the form of those ambulances would have to be purchased, the first year would probably be a net zero change.  Subsequent years would realize that $2.6 million in savings.

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.

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.

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Anonymous sadie1 said...

This plan sounds pretty good, but relocating a station would be costly.

5/18/2012 07:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Fire Department Do-over said...

Previous posts claimed there were 9 vacant positions, how did it go from 9 down to 6 ?

5/18/2012 08:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Eff Riggy said...

When South Coast Plaza goes into growth mode?

It's as busy as ever!

Sounds like Slobdell spin.

ps...Costa Mesa is on life support. Just watch.

5/18/2012 09:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Very good proposal so far. I like the idea of getting rid of CARE in place of real, trained ambulance service. Staff reductions were in order years ago, glad to see the union might agree to this. Thanks to City and Fire officials for coming to compromise. Maybe a model for the future???

5/18/2012 09:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Kudos! said...

Kudos to Chief Arnold for a GREAT plan. I'm confident that Capt. Vasin and the members of CMFA will agree to the proposal.

5/18/2012 09:36:00 AM  
Anonymous almostdone said...

This is an extremely efficient model of service with a emphasis on what a modern day FD does most.
The manpower (3-man engine + 2-man FF/Medic unit) is there to provide adequate first response for firefighting when it's called for, and one station can handle any medical call without waiting for additional units.
Newport's use of ALS Medic ambulances with their FireMedic program is a proven example of how a city can control one of their public safety programs and generate enough revenue to help pay for it.
Arnold's experience in Newport will benifit Costa Mesa if the council has enough sense to use it.

5/18/2012 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Hoping for pension reform said...

Newport to consider overhaul of firefighter pensions.

Firefighters would eventually contribute the full cost of their retirement contributions and new hires would go to a second tier. Association has agreed; council to vote.,0,1442989.story

"We were able to sit down and identify what issues needed to be resolved to keep the city viable and keep us competitive," said Brian McDonough, NBFA president.

Lets hope CMFA gets on board with this type of reform as well.

5/18/2012 11:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Waiting said...

The CMFA will get on board just like the NBFA when the CMCC behaves in a professional manor like the NBCC.

The only difference in this case is Costa Mesa's city council.

5/19/2012 05:43:00 AM  
Anonymous 0@67 said...

a couple things seem to be missing from the firefighters package: 2 tier pension for new hires, all pay "employee share" of pension, and no 3@50. These are very important items that must be agreed to.

5/19/2012 07:05:00 AM  
Anonymous 3@55 said...

0@67.... You're off track. This proposal didn't have anything to do with the salaries/benefits issues.
This was about staffing and restructering the dept to perform the best with the lowest number of personel.
The firefighters are on board with helping to make things work. If the council would work with instead of threatening them, you would see the same thing as what's getting done in Newport.

5/19/2012 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Wyatt Earp said...

hoping for pension reform and 0@67.....Wake up boys. CM FF's were paying into their PERS long before NB FF's even considered the idea. Your unfab four council were the ones who killed it, costing taxpayers $300,000 to $500,000 in the process. Your council caused this, not CM FF's. Sorry to have to slap you guys across the face with facts. I hope it didn't hurt too bad.

5/19/2012 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Great Start said...

WOW! Moorlach, Baugh and Riggy aren't gonna like what Newport is doing. They might kick Newport Council and residents out of the GOP. This doesn't help them break the Associations.

Everyone understands reforms are in order. But when the agenda isn't really about pensions and reforms you get what we have in Costa Mesa.

I applaud our neighbors in Newport, EXCELLENT JOB! Now you will start seeing more cash for other things. I guess that's why you are Newport a well run city.

5/19/2012 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous tomatoe/tomato said...

the NB agreement MAY be the thing the OCGOP has been espousing all along, it just makes sense fiscally which is the major OCGOP platform However, how much in raises did they get? that's important. And to 3@55: i know the article is not about what I said was missing. Obviously, or I would not have said they were missing! Get it?

5/19/2012 07:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Great Start said...

tomatoe/tomato is also 0@67! I wonder how many other people he is here. Checkyoursix?

But to the point, it appears CMFD has had a better proposal on the table sent to the city since March. So we will see if this is what the OCGOP had in mind. Because we all know it's the OCGOP philosophy driving those on the CMCC. As I said this doesn't solve Riggy's real agenda of killing unions to help GOP candidates.

All you need to do is google Righeimer and Unions

He’s also a man who has been immersed in GOP politics going back at least fourteen years. In 1997, he gave anti-union testimony to a Republican majority Congressional subcommittee

5/19/2012 11:57:00 PM  

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