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Nevada County fire district vote to pull staff from Nevada City fire station

The Nevada County Consolidated Fire District’s Board of Directors approved a proposal to pull firefighters from the Nevada City Fire Department’s only fire station, eliminating joint city-county staffing.

“I want to make something clear for the record,” board chairperson Warren Knox said Thursday. “We are doing this only if there are no good solutions in place within six months.”

Consolidated Fire Chief Jim Turner, whose official contract was approved, along with Deputy Chief Jerry Funk’s, at Thursday night’s board meeting, presented a proposal 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 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.

“Everybody that has been engaged in this process has been very up front. As Chief Turner said, I know for sure that the fire chief of Nevada City was well aware of these types of plans, two or three months ago.”
Board chairperson Warren Knox

The savings, though, would not go into effect until the 2015 fiscal year due to the 180-day notice the district must give Nevada City before vacating the three positions.




“This is a decision that takes some thought process,” Turner said. “But this option gives us a time line and if there’s other discussions out there, it gives us time to still operate in accordance while still seeking other options.”

Turner met with fire chiefs and city managers from Nevada City and Grass Valley on Sept. 30, to discuss options that would allow the necessary amount of staff and equitable amount of support be put into joint city-county fire staffing. The group agreed to collect three years worth of data on the relative fiscal value contributed by each fire agency.

During a public hearing on the proposal Thursday, Nevada City Manager Mark Prestwich told the board that he was disappointed that Nevada City officials were not notified about the proposal.

“The legacy of this partnership and the impact of our daily work really demands research and insight about the equity of our working relationship before moving forward,” Prestwich said.

District resident Linda Chaplin reiterated those sentiments saying that the fire district put the proposal on the agenda overnight.

“I really didn’t have a very good idea of what was going on,” Chaplin said. “I fault you folks for not letting the public know what was going on three years ago. It’s only been since the last summer that you were saying ‘here’s our plan.’ If you were having problems, you should have told us three years ago.”

Turner, though, said that he was not notified that the proposal would be on the agenda until Oct. 11, and that the option of vacating staff from the fire station has been discussed for several months.

“Everybody that has been engaged in this process has been very up front,” Knox said. “As Chief Turner said, I know for sure that the fire chief of Nevada City was well aware of these types of plans, two or three months ago.”

The proposal, which was approved on a 4-3 vote, will leave Nevada City’s Station 54 with three less firefighters — not enough to operate on the necessary 24-hour, seven days per week basis, if other options are not considered.

Turner said a super-chief is still on the table.

“We’ve developed a dozen to a half a dozen plans on how to effectively operate the consolidation,” Turner said. “This is just one identified plan.”

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email inatividad@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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