Friday, June 24, 2016

Solano [County] grand jury calls for Cordelia fire district’s dissolution

CORDELIA — A Solano County grand jury report issued Wednesday identified serious problems with the Cordelia Fire Protection District and recommended dissolving the district.
With the summer fire season igniting, the report points out that some of the district’s fire engines are more than 22 years old and that the living quarters for its firefighters suffer from years of deferred maintenance and are “minimally habitable.”
The report also faulted the district’s five-member board of directors, three of whom are set to be on the November 2016 election ballot.
“None of the directors appeared to have a comprehensive understanding of the budget or the components within the budget” and were not able to explain what is included in more than $156,000 of the district’s budget, according to the report.
The directors also could not explain why the district’s expenses have grown by nearly 35 percent – from roughly $659,000 to more than $889,000 – between 2010 and 2015, according to grand jurors who met with board members.
Fire Chief Keith Martin, at the helm of the fire district for a bit more than a year, declined to comment on the grand jury report. He said board members had ordered him not to talk about the details in the report.
The report said the district “does not have adequate income to sustain itself as a viable entity” and should be merged with another local fire agency.
Board chairman Jeff Dittmer fully agreed with the grand jury’s recommendation of a merger. Dittmer said the current way the district’s fire services are provided is “dysfunctional” because of the Proposition 13 distribution of property taxes, changes within the fire service, costs that rise faster than income and changing demographics that affect volunteers.
Dittmer took exception to the grand jury’s criticism of the board of directors. He was quick to point out he was only speaking for himself and not the entire board, who he said would respond to the grand jury report next week.
Dittmer faulted grand jurors for expecting an unreasonable degree of budget knowledge that bordered on having to have memorized the entire budget. Dittmer also pointed out that two longstanding board members left the board within the past two years taking with them “a lot of institutional knowledge.”
June 23, 2016
Fairfield Daily Republic
By Jess Sullivan

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