Nevada City Fire Station 54 to have ‘rotating brown-outs’
After recently meeting with Nevada City Fire union reps, City Manager Mark Prestwich said the city plans to implement an interim brown-out schedule at Fire Station 54 immediately following the April 19 departure of three Nevada County Consolidated firefighters from the station.
“We’re going to implement a rotating brown-out on our C shift,” said Prestwich. “We’ll be able to staff four of the six-day rotations moving forward; the station will go dark two of those six days on the C shift because we don’t have an adequate number of firefighters. We don’t have a sustainable funding source to hire three additional firefighters at this time.”
In October, Consolidated Fire Chief Jim Turner presented a proposal to the board that would reduce staff from 30 to 27 firefighters in the district by declining to fill three vacant positions that were left empty after Turner and Deputy Chief Jerry Funk were promoted, and a firefighter resigned to work in a fire district in Contra Costa County.
According to Turner, the county fire district would save $240,000 annually, and would allow the district to reallocate a portion of savings into capital replacement or to purchase necessary equipment.
The proposal was approved on a 4-3 vote, and Consolidated gave an 180-day notice to Nevada City, stating they would vacate the three positions on April 19.
In December, Nevada City staff asked for an extension. But at a March 19 Consolidated fire meeting, board members said they would not delay their pullout of the three firefighters from Station 54 past the initial deadline.
Prestwich then met with city council members and local fire chiefs to explore the city’s options.
After meeting with the city’s fire union representatives, Prestwich said the city came up with a plan to partially close the station in the interim due to the lack of staffing.
According to Prestwich, the station is typically staffed with two firefighters and an intern 24 hours a day, with staff rotating between three separate 48-hour shifts. With three fewer firefighters, the station will have three firefighters and three interns, which is not sufficient to staff all three shifts.
In order to staff at least two full 48-hour shifts, Prestwich said, the city will hire a supplemental firefighter for up to 18 months, bringing the station’s staff to four firefighters and two interns. Prestwich said the city will not hire to fill a currently vacant city position, instead using those funds to pay the new firefighter’s salary.
Prestwich would not comment on which position would stay vacant, and how much would be allocated to the new firefighter.
“The advantage of this approach is rather than distribute our staff to other stations, during this interim period, the station will remain open at least four out of the six days in the rotation,” said Prestwich. “We’re pleased that there’s a plan to staff the station to the extent that the city could fund it today.”
A decision on the city’s federal grant application will likely come sometime between June 1 and Sept. 31.
If the temporary grant is approved, Nevada City would have funding for 24 months, and immediately launch the hiring process to staff the third shift, likely drawing from the existing firefighter intern list.
Long-term funding for the station would come from a proposed June 2016 measure that would increase city sales tax a quarter of a percent, to accrue $290,000 annually.
“That would restore staffing to Station 54 on an ongoing basis,” Prestwich said.
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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