Nevada City to meet fire union, discuss temporary closure of Station 54
Following Nevada County Consolidated Fire District’s decision not to extend the stay of three firefighters at Nevada City’s only fire station 54, City Manager Mark Prestwich will meet with local fire union representatives next week to get feedback on potential options for the station, which will implement a full or partial closure following consolidated fire’s April 19 pullout.
“We’re anticipating a closure of Station 54 and it’s necessary to discuss the impacts with the employees,” said Prestwich. “We’re going to talk about the direction provided by the city council and work with them to inform them and discuss impacts on their working conditions.”
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.
Prestwich and Nevada City staff, though, in December, requested the consolidated board to extend their stay at Station 54 until the city were to receive a potential federal SAFER grant that would fund the station in the interim.
According to Prestwich, Nevada City did not have enough in its $113,000 reserve fund balance to finance the three firefighters during the transition until the grant money comes through.
The city was striving toward a $500,000 reserve fund, and paying for firefighters would exhaust their reserves, he said.
At a March 19 consolidated fire meeting, board members said they would not delay their pullout of the three firefighters from Station 54 past their initial deadline, because the fire district could be held accountable for gifting public funds.
“I was kind of shocked at their dismissive tone at the meeting,” Mayor Terri Andersen said. “They made a very abrupt unilateral decision, and I feel that the city staff and the council responded quickly and creatively and in good faith given our limited resources … We’ve been a long-time partner with them and by pulling staff from the station and not giving us that little bit more time, they’ve opted to cut out a link of effective fire services in the area.”
It is unsure to what extent the board’s decision will also affect local Grass Valley fire stations, which may receive redistributed staff from the closed station.
Chief Turner, and Grass Valley Fire Chief Mark Buttron could not be reached for comment, though, Consolidated Fire Chair Tom Carrington told The Union the board voted on the issue months ago, adding that “the responsibility for staffing Station 54 is the (city’s) responsibility.”
Vice Mayor Jennifer Ray said she was disappointed in the decision adding, “It is quite clear that response time to fight fire in our town will be compromised. Nevada City is clearly not a priority to them.”
Prestwich said Consolidated’s decision likely means the station will be temporarily closed until the city is informed that its grant application has been approved; a decision they will find out 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, likely drawing from the existing firefighter intern list, Prestwich said.
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.
“We’ve met with our staff, as well as the fire chiefs in the joint-operational area and we’re working together to identify next steps that will meet the city’s needs,” said Prestwich.
“We’ve been having discussions since last week, we also met in closed session with the city council to discuss a need to seek authority, and how to communicate with our (firefighters). The next step is to meet with them next week.”
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
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