Tuesday, April 3, 2012

San Mateo County: How Did San Carlos Respond to the Grand Jury?

The letter, signed by the Mayor, examines the Grand Jury's findings. - By Kenny Porpora - San Carlos Patch
In a letter signed by Mayor Andy Klein, San Carlos responded to the San Mateo County Grand Jury Report.

The letter agreed with most of the grand jury’s findings, disagreeing most heavily with the grand jury’s idea that Cal Fire was a viable option for the city’s fire protection services.

“A majority of the City Council members indicated by a straw poll vote of 3-2 that they do not believe that Cal Fire is a viable alternative for fire protection services by the County and the cities when considering regionalization or outsourcing alternatives,” the letter said.

The letter also partially disagreed with the jury’s note of both San Carlos and Belmont officials’ low expectations for mediation to be a success.

The Grand Jury’s report originally cited ‘missed opportunities’, and said the city’s pursuit of subcontracting with Cal Fire would have been more cost-effective, an option shot down by the Board of Supervisors in favor of reconciliation between San Carlos and then-partner Belmont.

The jury also recommends that Cal Fire be considered as an alternative when assessing changes to local-agency fire protection. San Carlos must respond to the letter by May 15.

On April 12, 2010, San Carlos notified Belmont that it would be ending their 31-year Joint Power Agreement, a separation that had been in the works since 2004. San Carlos’ decision, according to city officials at the time, was a cost-saving measure.

The Grand Jury report notes that the City of Good Living’s fire expenses had increased more than 30 percent between 2005 and 2010, and under the complicated cost-sharing formula it had worked out with Belmont, the city went from paying 47 percent of all costs to 53 percent.

San Carlos and Belmont experienced many failed negotiations and the decision to dissolve the relationship became official.

On September 16, 2010, the city hired TriData Consulting Firm out of Arlington, Va. to analyze options for thee city.

About a month later, TriData submitted an 85-page report to the city, outlining several options, the best of which, they said, would be Cal Fire, due to their ability to hire displaced employees, something other partnering cities
 could not do.

"That may be a deciding factor, said assistant city manager Brian Moura in October of 2010. "But it may not be. It depends on what the formal and final proposals look like. This is all still in the early stages."

The fire union took concern with Cal Fire's hiring of all fire personnel, however, due to their significantly lower salaries; salaries city employees would inherit should they contract with the county.

According to the Grand Jury report, often times, firefighters salaries are maintained even when picked up by Cal Fire.

Other suggestions from the consultant firm included the city's partnering with neighbor Redwood City, or possibly a three way split among San Carlos, Redwood City, and Cal Fire.

This distribution of services among the three, had it happened, would have limited station and equipment costs and would have allowed for more personnel to be hired, making it possible for the station to respond to more than one call at a time, said assistant city manager Brian Moura, at the time.

San Carlos sent out a call for RFP’s, and sought out proposals from North County Fire, San Mateo, and Menlo Park, in addition to Redwood City and Cal Fire.

On November 19, 2010, the city received a fax from Cal Fire director Ken Pilmott saying Cal Fire will not be submitting a bid for proposal, a decision that has surprised San Carlos officials.

“To be successful, it is imperative that there is support for these agreements amongst all the stakeholders, including public officials, local citizens and labor organizations,” said Ken Pimlott, the Cal Fire director in a fax sent to assistant city manager Brian Moura.

“In the case of the City of San Carlos, there is concern from regional Legislative members and significant opposition from local labor organizations. Lacking support from these stakeholders, a proposed partnership could face legal challenges and be cast in a negative light by the media and the community.”

The letter sent concern through government officials, who were expecting a bid from Cal Fire due to previous interest, and an unofficial bid sent back in March of 2010.

“Something changed in the last seven days,” said assistant city manager Brian Moura told San Carlos Patch at the time the letter was sent.

“Cal Fire submitted an unofficial proposal in March of this year, and two others in previous years when we’ve attempted this, so something changed in the last few days and I don’t know what it is.”

On January 17, 2011, city officials sat before the Boards Finance and Operations Committee and asked to contract with Cal Fire. The County instead wanted to see the city work out its relationship wih Belmont. Mediation between the two cities was suggested by Supervisors Carole Groom and Adrienne Tissier.

The city went on to contract with Redwood City after mediation was unsuccessful. The Grand Jury report states that while savings were made, the savings would have been greater had the city been allowed to subcontract with Cal Fire under the county’s contract.

1 comment:

Extreme Q Vaporizer said...

The Nation instead desired to see the town perform out its connection wih Belmont. Arbitration between the two places was recommended by Managers Carole Bridegroom and Adrienne Tissier.