Bill Neville: Questions abound on proposed fire district consolidation in Nevada County
Even though, as a resident of the City of Grass Valley, I am not included in the proposed Fire District consolidation, I read the Aug. 7 article on consolidation with great interest, although it left me with more questions than answers:
What are the goals of the new Fire District? The only issues addressed I see in the article are increases in staffing at existing stations to handle two incidents (of undisclosed type/size) at the same time while leaving (unnumbered) reserve resources and essentially doubling the cost of fire protection — these seem more a description of methodology to reach a goal than an actual goal.
2. Why are not the cities (Grass Valley and Nevada City) included in his study?
Their commercial base would seem a natural source of revenue through county approved sales tax.
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Their commercial clientele would certainly be affected by a major fire no matter what jurisdiction was their residence.
Wildfire ignores city limits.
Without the cities included, the area to be protected will be convoluted and less efficient to serve.
3. What will be the governance structure of the new district? Will residents lose control of their fire protection and EMS? Who will manage the district? Do any of our current fire managers have the background to be considered as chief of the new agency?
4. Has the “working subcommittee” actually established through some formal methodology that the locations of the current Fire District stations would be appropriate (effective/efficient) for operating this new fire agency? My casual observations of the current stations I am aware of lead me doubt this.
5. What led the “working subcommittee” to determine that a 240% increase in staffing would be appropriate (and fiscally supportable) for the new district? The proposed staffing equates to one firefighter for every 500 residents in the proposed service area — in the vast majority of California communities that number is closer to one firefighter for every 1,000 residents and in many cases that includes ambulance staffing.
6. Who has staffed the “working subcommittee?” Hopefully includes some outside the Fire District residents, e.g. representatives of those commercial establishments, which will no doubt at some point be asked to pick up significant part of the fiscal impact of the new District.
Based only on The Union’s report I must admit I am disappointed that such a needed and important step in our community’s development appears to be considered with less deep thought than it deserves. I do not understand the lack of some “out of the box” thinking, for example:
Use of part-time or volunteer staffing to reduce staffing requirements especially during periods of high demand (these periods, especially EMS can be roughly predicted)
Increased use of fire company personnel for fire prevention inspections to reduce need for an inspection force
Contracting with other agencies to reduce costs, e.g. Higgins contract with Cal Fire (take a look at proximity of Nevada City and Cal Fire stations – adjacent).
Moving, closing some current stations full or part time to reduce costs.
Staggered staffing to reduce costs, reduced staffing for “quieter” stations.
Contract with the hospital to share first responder EMS costs.
Reduce immediate staffing goals.
I realize that not all or even some of these may be acceptable to the program planners, however I implore them to find some means to reduce the projected cost and increase the area covered of this truly critical effort.
Bill Neville, who lives in Grass Valley, is a retired superintendent at National Fire Academy; assistant vice president, National Fire Protection Association; assistant chief, Los Angeles Fire Department; fire chief, Hayward Fire Department; and director, Penn Valley Fire Department.
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