News

Grand jury: fire agencies can significantly reduce costs through consolidations

 

The San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury is recommending that the Woodside Fire Protection District and several cities in San Mateo County complete a study of possible consolidation with neighboring fire departments or contract with Cal Fire to provide the same level of service at reduced cost.

The recommendation was contained in a report issued by the grand jury yesterday (May 26). The agencies were asked to complete the study by July 1, 2011.

"The cities of San Bruno, Millbrae, Foster City, San Mateo, Redwood City and the Colma and Woodside Fire Protection District have opportunities to significantly reduce the cost of services to taxpayers by aggressively pursuing consolidations and mergers," the grand jury said in its report.

The agencies should include an effective dispute-resolution processes in all consolidation agreements, the report said.

To read the report, click here.

Comments

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 27, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

County wide consolidation of ALL 14 fire agencies is long overdue.

The recommendations in this report are just the first step and, I believe a wrong one. Consolidation will succeed by building on strengths not be combining the weaker units first. Our elected officials need to bite the bullet and begin the process of county wide consolidation of all the individual agencies and then give that consolidated agency the complete responsibility for ambulance service.

It is now very apparent that the drop in property tax and other revenues will finally force local governments to revise their budgets. This is also a perfect time to make one very big cost saving change - consolidate all San Mateo fire agencies into one entity and also give that consolidated agency the responsibility for ambulance service (which is currently contracted out by the county to an incredibly poor performing and expensive private company).

Why have 14 Fire Chiefs, 14 Training Chiefs, multiple and poorly equipped training facilities, multiple vehicle maintenance facilities, multiple human resources and purchasing facilities? Why have ambulances operated by a private company when the first people on the scene are always highly trained and skilled paramedic firefighters - who are prohibited by the County from providing ambulance service?

Years ago the fire agencies in San Mateo County consolidated their dispatch functions and the result was better service at a lower cost.

Now is the time to consolidate all of the other fire service functions.

Orange County, Sac Metro and the City and County of San Francisco all have consolidated fire departments and they all operate superb ambulance systems. There is no need to reinvent this organizational model - learn from it and build on it.

Sometimes difficult change can only occur when there is a crisis - well folks, we have a crisis so let's make this very important change.


Like this comment
Posted by Tim Clark
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on May 27, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Very interesting perspective, Pete. Building on strengths, not weaknesses seems intuitively obvious, but as a political strategy, waiting to pull in every fire agency in San Mateo County sounds a bit like waiting for the perfect solution instead of moving ahead now with a good approach. We can certainly anticipate opposition among various interests within the 14 fire agencies.

Do you have any indication that our elected officials are ready to bite the bullet and begin a countywide consolidation process? The grand jury, of course, but who beyond that? Perhaps Almanac and other local news outlets would lend editorial support to your campaign. Have you asked any of them?



Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 27, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Tim lark asks:"Do you have any indication that our elected officials are ready to bite the bullet and begin a countywide consolidation process? "
The Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board of Directors passed, while I was on the Board, a unanimous resolution calling for careful study of consolidation.


Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 27, 2010 at 11:04 pm

I recently posted this on another thread:

Gone are the days when smaller municipalities can afford to have all their own services. Outsourcing or consolidation seem viable options. In a county our size there is no need to have 15+ dispatch centers, 15+ police chiefs, 15+ fire chiefs, and 20+ school superintendents, etc.

But local governments would rather fall on fall on their proverbial sword or consider raising taxes than opt for efficiency and effectiveness. What will it take for our officials to set aside their pride and do what makes sense? But maybe I expect too much of them. If they aren't doing their job, remember election day is coming soon!!


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 28, 2010 at 4:19 pm

You know this won't happen because it makes sense. Government and efficient seem to be an oxymoron.


Like this comment
Posted by sounds good to me
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 28, 2010 at 10:30 pm


The story lists a bunch of cities, but Menlo Fire is left out. Why not Menlo Fire? As far as I can ascertain, Menlo Fire is 105 employees with a budget greater than $30mil. Menlo Park the city is 240 employees with a budget greater than $30mil. Seems to me there must be some efficiencies to be found by consolidating Menlo Fire.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 29, 2010 at 6:15 am

"Sounds good to me" does not seem to understand that the City of Menlo Park does NOT have a fire department.

The citizens of the City of Menlo Park are provide fire services by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District which serves approximately 100,000 people who live in Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and some of the unincorporated areas of San Mateo County. In fact, the Fire District was established BEFORE the City of Menlo Park.

Menlo Park Fire Protection District is one of the 14 fire agencies which I, see above, recommended be consolidated into one single county wide fire agency.


Like this comment
Posted by sounds good to me
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 29, 2010 at 7:58 am

The story states -

"The cities of San Bruno, Millbrae, Foster City, San Mateo, Redwood City and the Colma and Woodside Fire Protection District have opportunities to significantly reduce the cost of services to taxpayers by aggressively pursuing consolidations and mergers,"

Menlo Park Fire Protection District is not on the list. It should be.


Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Sounds Good To Me..............

That is Peters point.......The Grand Jury should have recommended Total consolidation


Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2010 at 5:35 pm

I support Peter Carpenter's idea 100%

County wide consolidation of ALL 14 fire agencies is long overdue.


Vote Stogner June 8, 2010


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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