News

Sparks flying between Atherton and Menlo Park fire district

Menlo Park considering joining Atherton in studying fire district finances

Despite a letter from the fire district saying it doesn't plan to cooperate, Atherton's City Council on Wednesday night authorized getting proposals for a study of the Menlo Park Fire District's costs for serving Atherton and the revenues it generates from property taxes in the town.

City Manager George Rodericks said once the town receives the proposals, a contract will come to the council for approval, probably in January.

The council asked for bids from consultants on studying three items: the amount of property tax revenues generated in Atherton that goes to the fire district, both now and in the future; how much the fire district spends providing all its services to the town; and how much it would cost the town to provide its own fire services.

The council declined to add a fourth suggested study item, about what steps would be needed for the town to provide its own fire services. City Attorney Bill Conners said the item could easily be added on to a contract if the town wants to look into that issue later. Council members asked that each issue be priced separately, so they could choose to do parts of the study or break it into stages.

In the meantime, Menlo Park's City Council has the subject of joining Atherton in the study, and expanding it to cover Menlo Park, on the agenda of its Tuesday, Oct. 25 meeting.

A little history

It has been only a little more than two months since officials from Atherton and the fire district gathered at the district's sole fire station located within the town, on Almendral Avenue, to cheerfully celebrate the completion of a joint project. The town and fire district had split the cost to install a pedestrian-activated stop light on El Camino at Almendral. The fire district can remotely control the signal to make it easier for emergency vehicles to get in and out of the fire station.

That Aug. 17 celebration was before the town suggested it might want to take a close look at the fire district's finances.

Since then, there's been a flurry of sometimes heated exchanges between fire and town officials, and the relationship between the two has grown strained.

The letter

The letter addressed to Atherton Mayor Elizabeth Lewis, which was written by the fire district's attorney Lauren Quint, but signed by board president Rob Silano, said: " This communication is intended to make clear that the District has neither legal obligation nor any present intention to participate in the Town’s study."

On Tuesday night, as they discussed the letter to Atherton, fire board members expressed their frustration.

Fire board member Peter Carpenter, an Atherton resident who was the liaison between the district and the Town Council, asked the board to put someone else in the job.

"I would like to be relieved of my responsibility as liaison to the town of Atherton," he said. "I have been very outspoken on this issue and I will continue as a citizen of the town of Atherton to be outspoken on this issue."

Menlo Park resident Chuck Bernstein agreed to become the Atherton liaison, and sat in on the council meeting Wednesday night.

After shedding his liaison role, Mr. Carpenter proceeded to rip into the town for suggesting the fiscal study. "This is a blatant attempt by the town of Atherton to take property taxes which have been paid by the citizens of the fire district and appropriate those funds to the town of Atherton," he said. "They have no legal jurisdiction."

He said the town wants to "rob the resources" of East Palo Alto residents "in order to enrich the town of Atherton."

Does the town have jurisdiction?

On Wednesday night, Atherton council members asked City Attorney Bill Conners if the town has legal jurisdiction to spend money on a fiscal study of the fire district.

Mr. Conners said the matter is not unlike when the town has studied El Camino Real, which as a state highway is controlled by the California Department of Transportation. "Our constituents are paying money into a fund. Can we look at how those funds are being used?" Mr. Conners asked. "We can look at this and we can spend taxpayer money on this because it ultimately benefits the residents."

Mr. Silano, the fire board president, said Atherton officials claim that residents want to know about the costs of their fire services. "I'd like to contact these people from Atherton that think that we're not providing the services," he said, asking Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman to get a list of anyone who has complained from the Atherton city manager.

"I think it is a fiction that there is a group of Atherton residents who think this is an issue," said Mr. Carpenter. "They don't have any complaints."

Fire board member Virginia Chang-Kiraly said she has received calls from several Atherton residents who "think it would be a waste of money" to do a study. "There's nothing the town can do about the property tax allocation," she said.

No members of the public spoke on the issue at either meeting.

"Uncommonwealth of Atherton"?

Mr. Carpenter said the whole issue is also a waste of fire district time. "I would hate to know how many hours the chief, and legal counsel, and other people, have spent on the mischief that's been created by the town manager and a couple of council members," he said.

"What they're trying to do is create the 'Uncommonwealth of Atherton' that is a stand-alone entity. Next thing you know they're going to create their own trade agreements with adjacent jurisdictions, they're going to have their own air force, their own navy, their own army," he said. "The 'Uncommonwealth of Atherton' is an obscene construction."

No representatives of the town were at the fire board meeting, but at their Oct. 19 meeting, council members knew tempers had been flaring.

"I'm disappointed with the reaction to the questions," the town has asked about the fire district finances, council member Bill Widmer said. "I hope we can mend that and we can work together."

The fire district is providing "a terrific service" to the town, he said. "We want them to be empowered. We want them to be motivated to work with us."

Mayor Elizabeth Lewis said the council members "believe it's our fiduciary role as council members to address the issues that are before us for our residents."

"What we were requesting was open-handed and not subversive or any other agenda," she said. "They felt we were somehow attacking them or somehow setting it up so we could leave" the district, she said. "That's not what our intent is – our intent is to take a look and understand what the numbers are."

"We want to be friends and collaborators with the fire district," she added.

Watch a video of the fire board meeting here. The Atherton study item begins at 2:14:00.

Watch a video of the Atherton City Council here.The fire services fiscal review item starts at 1:34:45.

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Comments

23 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 5:15 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Please understand that this is a blatant attempt by the Town of Atherton to steal property tax revenues paid to the Fire District by the residents of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park via “a property tax revenue sharing agreement” that shifts those funds to the Town of Atherton.

The Atherton Town Council wishes to identify and capture for its own selfish benefit the difference between what Fire District residents who also happen to reside within the much smaller jurisdiction of Atherton pay in Fire District property taxes and what some analysis might show the Fire District “spends” inside the political boundaries of the Town. That difference is the result of 1) property tax rates that resulted from Prop 13 and AB 8 (which neither the Town or the Fire District can change) and 2) the Fire District’s firm policy of providing every resident of the Fire District with exactly the same level of service.

The Atherton staff reports have continually refereed to solving this perceived problem by such things as “a property tax revenue sharing agreement” which would transfer tax payer dollars from the Fire District to the Town - and which would require a concomitant reduction of services to all of the residents of the Fire District including those of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park - or by an increase in the level of Fire District services provided to the residents of Atherton - which would also require a concomitant reduction of services to all of the other residents of the Fire District including those of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.


I cannot understand how the Atherton Town Council can be so blind to both the reality and the optics of a very wealthy Town taking services away from its much less well to do neighbors or even asking that its wealthy residents get better services from the Fire District than do other residents of the Fire District.

There are many agencies to which Atherton residents pay taxes and which agencies deliver services to Atherton residents that cost much less than the amount of those property taxes. A prime example are the school districts. Under Atherton’s strategy of only paying for what it gets Atherton would easily claim an even bigger refund from the school districts. And tellingly Atherton wants these refunds to go to the Town itself study and not to the residents who actually paid the property taxes.

Does the Town Council really want Atherton to become an island unto itself and to divorce itself from the larger community?

Is Atherton to become the UncommonWealth of Atherton?

Posted as an Ashamed Citizen of Atherton


10 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:14 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@Peter

On a fiduciary basis, you certainly can not blame the town of Atherton. How many fires did you respond to in Atherton over the last 10 years? and how much did it cost them? That is is question they are ultimately asking.

Remembering that Ben Franklin set up the first Fire district in 1736 to protect portions of Philadelphia from fires. you've come a LONG way and expanded your delivered services. Is the town better off getting their paramedics from a private subcontractor at a lower cost then MAFPD? is there a less costly way to get fire protection ONLY? all those are VALID questions for Atherton to ask on behalf of their residents (and voting citizens)

That your board President is now saying he won't cooperate is a bit hypocritical coming from you. You've been POUNDING on MPSD for transparency in their financial dealings. The citizens of Menlo Park and Atherton would expect YOU (of all people) to INSIST on transparency as to the cost of providing services to their citizens.

We all look forward to understanding the cost & benefit analysis of MAFPD and it's service areas. Perhaps this will help you re-organize in a more efficient manner, perhaps it will show that a two tiered pay and pension system is more appropriate, perhaps you will reduce services and costs? who knows? that what studies are for? aren't they?

Looking forward to hearing and seeing more data from the district.

Roy Thiele-Sardiña


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:19 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"You've been POUNDING on MPSD for transparency in their financial dealings."

"Looking forward to hearing and seeing more data from the district."

Roy - The Fire District is totally transparent. It is all right here:

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:41 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Peter

The town really is trying to understand what they get for their $11M in contributed taxes. and the answer your chief gave of we don't have it sounds not-transparent:

5. Question – Why has the Fire District not provided the Town with information specific to Atherton?

5. Answer – The Town is in the District, while the Fire District acknowledges Atherton, its network and location of fire stations was located to geographically serve the entire Fire District as a whole. Deployment of our resources and record keeping is done by emergency unit and station, not by jurisdiction. Atherton is seeking information as if it was its own standalone entity, which it is clearly not.

I am pretty sure you know EXACTLY how many times your trucks rolled to Atherton for a Fire, and how many times you rolled to Atherton for Paramedic help. That would be a good start to figure out Cost($) per Call. Which I am guessing is going to be a RIDICULOUS number.

I am curious, how many TOTAL fires did you respond to per year in the last 10 years?

Roy Thiele-Sardina


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 11:20 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I am pretty sure you know EXACTLY how many times your trucks rolled to Atherton for a Fire, and how many times you rolled to Atherton for Paramedic help. "

Actually the Fire District does not serve political jurisdictions - it serves all of the 90,000 plus residents of the District.

Can West Bay Sanitary tell Atherton how much sewage each of the 29 Atherton TRA's produces?


And saying that you don't have information that you don't have is simply stating the truth.

As the Board President stated:
"MPFPD is dedicated to public transparency and intends to continue meeting any and all of its legal obligations pursuant to the Public Records Act (Cal. Gov. Code §6250 et. seq.), California state law, and the operating rules and regulations of the District."


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 11:31 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Note that there are no political boundaries on this map of MPFPD Incidents:

Web Link

And if you are interested in financial details here is 120 pages of financial detail:

Web Link

And if you are interested in call data here is the Fire District's latest Standards of Coverage study:

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Note that the maps in Volume 3 do not show any political boundaries.


11 people like this
Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Roy - Your queries are reasonable, Thx.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 1:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Roy is always reasonable.

Most of Roy's questions are answered in the links that I have provided.

But if a particular piece of information does not exist, such as the amount of sewage generated by Atherton's 29 TRAs, then it does not exist.


8 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Peter (et al.)

Peter brought up sewage because I am on the West Bay Sanitary District Board. And he is correct we don't know how much sewage is produced in Atherton because we don't measure it.

The MAFPD does however log EVERY call (truck roll) they make.

So Peter, I guess I will have to do the fire districts job for them.

Please provide a list of EVERY call that the Fire District Responded to in 2014, 2015 . I am pretty sure you have that. It will of course have an address (or GPS coordinate). I will write some PHP code to run against Google Maps and get the ZIP code to answer my own question. I would prefer the list in Spreadsheet format if possible.

If you'd like, I will go to MAFPD Headquarters and make the request in writing.

Let me know how the district would like the request handled.

Thanks
Roy


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Roy - The proper way to submit a PRR is to do so in writing to the agency you wish to obtain information from.


5 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Will do Peter.

Thanks
Roy


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Roy - Don't forget to get the TRA information from the County. There are 29 TRAs in Atherton and they each have crazy dimension/boundaries.


5 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 2:39 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Peter

actually google has much of the TRA built into their mea data. I will talkto the google earth guys to figure out the programming to extract that.

I will also get a copy of the maps from ESRI which will have all the data in it.

Roy


7 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 21, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Roy, PRA requests by e-mail satisfy the "in writing" requirement.

I would be interested in hearing your response to Peter's argument:

"There are many agencies to which Atherton residents pay taxes and which agencies deliver services to Atherton residents that cost much less than the amount of those property taxes. A prime example are the school districts. Under Atherton’s strategy of only paying for what it gets Atherton would easily claim an even bigger refund from the school districts. And tellingly Atherton wants these refunds to go to the Town itself study and not to the residents who actually paid the property taxes."

The Sequoia Healthcare District collects a share of the 1% general property taxes locked in by Prop 13, as does MAFPD, MROSD, etc. These taxes are hidden from taxpayers, and require a look at incremental TRA's.

In my 14 years on it's Board of Directors, the District has spent more than $40,000,000 outside of our district boundaries, much of it in East Palo Alto. If the District annexed East Palo Alto(hopefully by taking a portion of the 1% of the general property taxes) that would reduce, but not eliminate, the "Robin Hood" effect questioned by the City of Atherton.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Jack - Perhaps Roy can use his analytical skills to map out the Atherton TRA's that have children in the public schools so that Atherton can figure out how much they are "overpaying" for public education.

If so should the "overpayment" be returned to the non-using property owners or become a windfall to the Town?


7 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 5:17 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Peter and Jack, that's in a different thread. we are talking MAFPD here......

Roy


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Roy - You raised MPCSD very early in this thread.


5 people like this
Posted by Roy D
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2016 at 8:38 pm

Roy T

Send your public records act request to San Mateo County Public Safety Communications (PSC). They dispatch for the Menlo Park Fire District (and other agencies). PSC will have the computer records you seek.

PSC probably won't divulge all the address numbers, but they can certainly tell you the date, time, call type, disposition, jurisdiction, agencies dispatched, engine numbers, response time, time on the call, etc. They are able to identify jurisdiction, including calls within Atherton's city limits.

Here's their contact us page: Web Link

I would bypass the Menlo Fire district for this information. They would ultimately have to go to PSC anyway.


9 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 21, 2016 at 9:36 pm

I believe that the potential pot stirrer is the Atherton Town Manager, George Rodericks. Things were just fine until he arrived on the scene and the Town started having financial concerns.

As for looking for calls into Atherton, make sure the records track all call not just ones for fires. The FD responds to medicals, public assists, and others that assist the community.

Finally, I'd like to know who the Atherton residents are who started this issue that Town Hall is claiming.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 9:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I believe that the potential pot stirrer is the Atherton Town Manager, George Rodericks."

You are absolutely correct. George actually calls himself the CITY Manager and he is the driving force behind this UnCommonWealth of Atherton philosophy. And now he has duped the Menlo Park City Manager into joining in this effort even though Atherton's strategy would remove resources from Menlo Park.


5 people like this
Posted by Marty M
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Oct 22, 2016 at 11:15 am

Peter, I guess I don't understand why you as an atherton resident are so upset these questions are being asked by the Atherton CC (and soon the MP CC). These 5 councilmen are all property owners who live within the district. If the questions answers are beyond what the MPFD is willing to divulge. They can vote in a study, if voters dont like that, the election will take care of it.

Its a good set of questions they are asking. And the MPFD does collect more from residents than it costs for entire towns budget combined for police, public works, parks, building, etc.

I am siding with the CC until I hear a better reason why not.


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 22, 2016 at 11:31 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I guess I don't understand why you as an atherton resident are so upset these questions are being asked by the Atherton CC"

For a number of reasons:
1 - The Town Council was not elected to represent the residents of the Fire District who happen to live in Atherton with regard to the Fire District just as they were not elected to represent the residents of Atherton who pay Federal taxes with regard to the Defense Department.

2 - This "study" is a prelude to then claiming that the "excess" should be given to the Town via a "property tax revenue sharing agreement" when the Town has no right to these funds,

3 - The Town Council is a stating a principle that no one should pay more in property taxes than they receive in services that I find morally wrong. Those of us who are more affluent should and do accept the responsibility to contribute to the greater welfare. We pay more income taxes than we receive in services. We pay more social security taxes than we receive in benefits. We pay far more property taxes for schools than we and our children use. I simply cannot accept the Town Council's stated principle.

Is that clear enough?


7 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 22, 2016 at 1:09 pm

In response to Atherton residents (or Town officials) who are concerned that they are receiving proportional service for their taxes -- if you questions the FD, are you also planning to question the school district, the State and Federal governments? I'm sure some of our more well off communities around the country, such as Beverly Hills, Bridgeport CT, Pelican Bay, FL, etc., are paying more than the services they receive.

Another option would be to revert to the long-ago subscription service for fire protection. That gave way to the system we have today. Unfortunately, this issue has and will continue to cause disharmony among local governments.

This was a poor way to approach and escalate this matter.


3 people like this
Posted by Dr bill
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 22, 2016 at 4:53 pm

To Roy T-S
If your sanitary district had a request (PRA) in an attempt to find out how many total gallons of water were used in flushes in his district in the month of August 2014, could they answer it? Do they record this data?

Roy, come on.......
I'm sure if you had the data you would provide it. If you don't have it, aren't you lucky that California law protects your agency from un recorded requests.

The fire district uses a formula of counting services provided to all communities within the district. Atherton should think about the high cost of their police services. If it's about the money they are spending, combining police services with MP or the county would save them money. Hoping they could build their civic center without cutting the size or going again to the tax payers for a bond measure.


16 people like this
Posted by Roy D
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2016 at 8:01 am

All fire department calls in San Mateo County are chronicled on a website, www.firedispatch.com.

That website has a log which includes all calls during the calendar year. The log entries include the type of call, the street, and the jurisdiction. Calls within Atherton have an ATN in the address. Using January, 2016 as an example, one finds the Menlo Park Fire District responded to Atherton calls 60 times:

10 Fire Alarm
1 Full Response
28 Medical Aid
3 Odor Investigation
6 Public Assist
7 Smoke Detector
2 Traffic Accident
1 Tree Down
1 Vehicle Fire
1 Wires Down

Atherton's website has information regarding municipal services, including the fire department: Web Link#

Atherton's 2,619 parcels generate $13,438,231 annually for the district. That's $1,119,852 per month. If only Atherton parcels were to have paid for the 60 calls in January 2016, the cost would have been $18,664 per response.


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2016 at 9:17 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Looks like to the two Roys are able to provide two more answers to Atherton's question of how much MPFPD spends within the political boundaries of Atherton.

And I provided a third answer over a month ago:

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 9, 2016 at 6:34 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Revenue received from Atherton TRAs $10.8 Million

Total MPFPD Expenses $37 Million from

Total District population = 90,000 +
Atherton population + 7,000 -

Atherton population = 8% of District

8% of $37 Million = $2.88 Million = Atherton residents' "share" of MPFPD expenditures

$10.8 - 2.9 = $7.9 Million

*****
NO ONE disputes that Fire District residents who happen to live within the much smaller political boundaries of the Town Of Atherton pay more in property taxes to the Fire District than the Fire District "spends" within the political boundaries of Atherton - just as do the school districts, CalTrans, CHP, the US Navy and countless over local, State and Federal agencies.

The issues are - so what?
- what,if anything, can the Town do about any of these
"imbalances"?
- and if, as I believe, the Town can do nothing about any of
these "imbalances" why is the Town spending any money
to trying to better quantify these imbalances?


2 people like this
Posted by Clunge
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 23, 2016 at 11:48 am

So can anyone explain what atherton does to help MP?


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2016 at 11:50 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"..what atherton does to help MP? "

Do you mean the City of Menlo Park or the Menlo Park Fire Protection District?


12 people like this
Posted by Peninsula resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 23, 2016 at 2:48 pm

"what Atherton does to help MP"

Here is a small sample:

On a per capita basis, we pay more for mpcsd than Menlo Park residents. We subsidize your children's education, more than you do.

Including the district office building, half of mpcsd sites are in Atherton.

As Mr. Carpenter points out, Atherton residents subsidize the Menlo fire protection district so that residents in other communities get better service than they could otherwise afford.

Atherton and Burlingame saved rail service on the peninsula.

Atherton over-contributes to the library district. Menlo Park's contribution to the library district? ZERO.

The better question is, what does Menlo park do?????


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

To clarify who is actually paying:

"On a per capita basis, Atherton residents pay more for mpcsd than Menlo Park residents. We subsidize your children's education, more than you do.

Including the district office building, half of mpcsd sites are in Atherton and they pay no property tax.

As Mr. Carpenter points out, Atherton residents subsidize the Menlo fire protection district so that residents in other communities get better service than they could otherwise afford.

Atherton residents over-contribute to the library district. Menlo Park's contribution to the library district? ZERO.


2 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2016 at 3:30 pm

What Atherton and Menlo Park should consider is whether they are jumping the gun and moving too fast by not allowing normal channels a chance to work. What are the normal channels? First the Atherton Town Council and the Fire District are scheduled to have a JOINT MEETING soon.

In contrast, doesn't Atherton's continued efforts of dropping salvos on the process by moving forward with the development of a Request for Proposal (RFP) undermine the hope and promise that the upcoming joint meeting will yield a mutually acceptable solution?

When two nations are fighting, does continuing the war send the wrong message in seeking peace?

Other avenues of diplomacy should be given a chance to work BEFORE stubbornly seeking the RFP ! For instance, both the Atherton Mayor and the Fire District President have met and will continue to meet. These well meaning ELECTED OFFICIALS should be given the chance to work things out.

The Atherton City Manager and the Fire District Chief meet regularly. Has Atherton given up on DIPLOMACY? Isn't there more to be gained by TALKING than by singularly seeking what Atherton wants, and few, if any, residents seem to be supporting?

Many feel that the process is being rushed. Give peace talks a chance, give further efforts of diplomacy a chance. That is what leadership is all about. That is why we elected you.

Atherton, save $50,000 on yet another dusty consultant's report and take the time to allow the multi-tiered process of discussions a chance to work.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Observer - The Fire Chief certainly tried - and he was totally rebuffed:

"George Rodericks
Town Manager
Atherton

September 6, 2016

I would strongly suggest that the Fiscal Evaluation of Fire Services item coming before the Atherton Town Council on September 7, 2016 at 3 pm, be tabled or postponed based upon the following important factors:

1. Relationship – The Town and the District both work for the same constituents or residents. Government works better when we work together and not at cross purposes. I have a deep concern that the divisive way in which this is going will significantly damage our relationship that would not be in the best interests of the residents we serve, or our organizations.

2. Detachment - We met with Martha Poyatos from LAFCo today, as she articulated in her e-mail to both of us, what you are proposing is not only “unprecedented” it is an over simplification of a much more detailed process that makes “detachment” extremely difficult for many good reasons that will affect your anticipated property tax return.

3. Fiscal Information – I had our consultant with MuniServices re-run the data on the 37 Tax Rate Area’s (TRA’s) for the Town. Simply put, the numbers you have provided in your report to the Council are off by several million dollars. We have determined that the amount you listed is well in excess of what the Fire District actually receives in property tax dollars.

4. Service Delivery – Your report understates what potential service capability this area of the Fire District actually receives. The reference to Automatic Aid and a seamless response from other fire agencies is an over simplification of a much more complex set of methodologies used to ensure a high level of critical essential emergency services and coverage. It fails to address daily non-emergency movements and backfills for trainings, inspections, maintenance/repairs and other impacts among other things.

5. Equity – The first time I heard this term used in conjunction with this subject was from a reporter the evening before we met for lunch last week to discuss your proposal. Along with “detachment” and Atherton exploring other methods of Fire Service Delivery the Town Council could select, it was both disappointing and disturbing. The strength of the Fire District model is that it focuses on providing superior emergency and fire services delivery for everyone in the service area equally and regardless of jurisdiction. It is extremely efficient and cost effective.

6. Municipal Service Review – The Fire Board will be having a Special Meeting on Thursday to review a resolution that would support a municipal services review study, conducted by LAFCo, to evaluate all of the Fire Agencies in the County for potential changes, efficiencies, consolidation and cost savings. The Fire District hopes the Town will be able to support that effort.

7. Meeting Proposal – We propose that we have a meeting in which a representative from LAFCo, a Fire Board and Council member, or two, meet with you and I to jointly discuss all of these issues.

In summary:
I recommend that you postpone, or table, the proposed item and schedule a new meeting with the Fire District and LAFCo, as soon as possible, so we can collectively discuss this information.

If you chose to not table or postpone this item, in surveying the availability of the Board President and Vice-President, my staff and myself regarding attendance and based upon the mid-afternoon meeting timeline, both Board members are not available to attend and the Deputy Chief and I are already committed to an important, pre-scheduled, County Fire Chiefs meeting.


Thank you


Harold Schapelhouman, Fire Chief"





2 people like this
Posted by Roy D
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2016 at 3:42 pm

As of March, 2016, here are the stats for Atherton kids in Atherton schools (from City Manager's blog):

A question was asked as to the number of Atherton children in Atherton schools. Currently, a total of 712 Atherton children attend Atherton schools - inclusive of Menlo School, Menlo College, and Sacred Heart Schools out of a total student population of 7,552 (9%). Below is a list by school.

Laurel School- 16 students from Atherton and total student population of 542
MAHS- 116 students from Atherton and total student population of 2,260
Encinal School- 108 students from Atherton and total student population of 750
Selby Lane- 0 students from Atherton and total student population of 694
Las Lomitas- 42 students from Atherton and total student population of 593
Sacred Heart Schools- 318 students from Atherton and total student population of 1,118
Menlo School- 110 students from Atherton and total student population of 795
Menlo College- 2 students from Atherton and total student population of 800

Using the same broad strokes set forth for the Fire Department analysis:

Menlo Atherton High School - Atherton parcels contribute $13.7 million to the Sequoia Union High School District. An Atherton parcel funds $117,923 for each of the 116 Atherton students.

Encinal & Laurel Schools - Atherton parcels contribute $14.6 million to the Menlo Park City School District. An Atherton parcel funds $117,972 for each of the 124 Atherton students.

These numbers don't include the parcel taxes the school districts assess on the Atherton properties. The actual figure per student is higher.


1 person likes this
Posted by School Taxes
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 23, 2016 at 3:51 pm

Here's a link to some education funding information. Worth a read. The Fire District is different. It is not a school district. Not an appropriate comparative.

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The Fire District is different. It is not a school district. Not an appropriate comparative. "

Why not? Both school districts and fire districts serve every home. What is the difference?


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 23, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

If Atherton really wants to do this then they should create their own school district, their own ambulance service, their own sewer district, etc., etc. The path Atherton is going down is simply put, stupid. Not to mention the optics of the most affluent community on the peninsula trying to nickel and dime everyone else. I wish I could say it was atypical, but based on my experience, the wealthy are some of the biggest skinflints out there.


4 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2016 at 4:58 pm

When two elected officials are openly fighting, and their respective organizations are openly disagreeing with one another to the degree that the Town of Atherton and the Fire District are disagreeing with one another, is it time to bring in a MEDIATOR?

Afterall, make love, not war. Talk, discuss, work things out, compromise, find a path that works for both. If you can't do it alone, then the services of a retired JUDGE, a professional mediation service, or perhaps calling in someone from the GOVERNOR'S OFFICE may be appropriate.

Frankly, all this sparring is downright embarrassing. Citizens expect better from their elected officials. Stop acting helpless; I suggest that you find a path that works.


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2016 at 8:28 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Don't take an Oath of Office to preserve and protect a public institution if your planned response to Willie Sutton showing up at the door is to offer him a seat and a cup of coffee and then offer to discuss his plans to rob you.


3 people like this
Posted by Question
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 23, 2016 at 10:25 pm

Roy D:: Why did you leave out all the Atherton kids at Oak Knoll?


3 people like this
Posted by School Taxes
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 24, 2016 at 7:28 am

They are different in a number of ways.

School districts are usually boundary driven and do not typically include every parcel within every jurisdiction. Atherton may be served by multiple school districts such that the property taxes paid by a resident may or may not provide property taxes to a specific district because they are not serviced by that district. That may not be the case with the high school district since it is generally larger, but with the smaller ones it certainly is.

Second, school district revenue is driven in large part by the State. There are minimum funding levels – basic aid districts and district that receive sufficient revenue from property taxes. I don't believe there are any state driven revenue requirements for the fire district?

Third, fire services are multi function. Don't they provide services to more than just a property? Don't they provide services to a power line that goes down, or a flood that flooded streets and roads and buildings, or medical response to not only personal properties but shopping malls or streets or traffic accidents on public roadways? In order for you to avail yourself of the public school system, generally, you have to live at an address within the District. Not so for the fire services School districts provide educational services based on state mandated guidelines.

I'm sure that there are other ways that schools differ from fire services. I'm just a novice here. Let the town to their study. If the fire district has nothing to hide, it's not their money being spent, why is there a problem?


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 24, 2016 at 7:33 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" If the fire district has nothing to hide, it's not their money being spent, why is there a problem? "

The Fire District has nothing to hide and their web site provides more information than does that of any other local entity.

"it's not their money being spent, why is there a problem? "

Because as an Atherton tax payer it IS MY MONEY being spent and I object because regardless of the outcome of the study, which will be driven by arbitrary cost allocation assumptions, the Town can do NOTHING about any "imbalance" so why waste our money?


15 people like this
Posted by Bart Spencer
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 24, 2016 at 7:46 am

Bart Spencer is a registered user.

In some ways this is not a new issue, when I first ran for the Fire Board in the 1990s, some Atherton elected and Town officials asked the same questions that have resurfaced today -- although it seemed less toxic then. Then, as now, some believed that Atherton was paying more than its share in taxes. I believe that Bob, as stated in an earlier post, touched on a significant point in that residents in wealthier neighborhood in the State and around the country probably do pay more than the services received as do residents in Hillsborough, Marin, and Bel Air.

In my early conversations, officials were "concerned" that there was only 1 fire station in the Town. I reassured them that Atherton residents receive services from multiple stations not just from Station 3. Station 1, 4, 5, and 6 all cover areas of the Town. My question back to them was -- can the Town afford its own fire department and receive the same high level of service it currently does?

A good recent example -- Hillsborough had 3 fire stations, a chief, deputy chief and 3 battalion chiefs until the department realized that it was costing the Town too much money. It chose to merge with Burlingame which has since taken on the City of Millbrae services. In the last 2 years Belmont has joined the San Mateo-Foster City Fire Department. In the 1990s there were 17 fire chiefs; today there are 10 -- progress in cost savings is being made.

I don't believe that Atherton would be better served with its own department nor do I think that the efforts to change the taxing system would result in more dollars in the city's coffers. This is costing the Town and FD time and money and probably won't change anything. Again, as Bob has stated, if the Town is intent on pursuing this effort, is it also willing to tackle other taxing agencies?

Once officials understood the level of service and coverage to the Town, officials were more than satisfied. They also realized that the Fire District responded to more than just fire and medical calls. It benefited from a number of programs and services, such as CERT and disaster preparedness.

If people are going to measure cost of services, please remember to include all that the FD does for its communities. Hopefully, this issue can be resolved amicably; otherwise it will continue to cause a riff between the FD and Town.


5 people like this
Posted by School Taxes
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 24, 2016 at 8:07 am

...and it's MY MONEY as well. I support the Town Council in this endeavor to at least get to the true cost of services for ALL fire service costs - to include CERT and other disaster preparedness efforts as Bart Spencer points out.

I think the "average" numbers that you point out Peter Carpenter are a more arbitrary cost model than the study would reveal. Your numbers say that I and my neighbors are paying nearly $8 million a year MORE than the cost of service. Whether the Town can get any more of that is irrelevant and unlikely. But - I want to know whether that's accurate or not. Sounds excessive to me and if the study can tell me otherwise I welcome it. After all, if I'm paying $8 million a year more than I need to, spending a few dollars to determine whether that's accurate or not seems like a drop in the bucket.


8 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 24, 2016 at 9:37 am

How about the fire department at least confine its spending of our tax dollars to providing services?

Web Link indicates that they are building a *museum* as part of the new Menlo Park station. I get that the old station was too small / seismically unsafe / needed replacement / etc, but let's not spend tax dollars on frivolous additions.

History and heritage are great, but put some pictures up on a web site.

Perhaps as a show of good faith and cost control, the fire board should cancel the museum and return the excess funds that would have been spent on it to the taxpayers.


4 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2016 at 10:25 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@Dr Bill

WBSD does not do flow meters by jurisdiction or by area. we have several flow meters in place that help understand pipe sizing with increased development, and we've had flow meters installed in several areas to calculate available waste/liquid for a recycled water project we are working on.

Other than that we do not measure the flow of individual properties or areas.

Roy Thiele-Sardina
Director
West Bay Sanitary District


2 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2016 at 3:30 pm

Does anyone know if an elected city council member or a city staff member is reading this thread of messages? If not, then the thoughts expressed may not be any different than if expressed to our barber or hair dresser. My sense is that few folks taking time to write here are sharing those thoughts with the decision makers. Would it not be useful to express similar thoughts either in an email, or verbally during Public Comment at a Council Meeting? This forum is educational, and often times entertaining. That is ok for its own sake. Reaching beyond directly to both Atherton and to the Fire District to help steer, direct, guide, support, encourage and/or to make a request is an additional step. Has anyone taken that step?


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 24, 2016 at 3:43 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" After all, if I'm paying $8 million a year more than I need to, spending a few dollars to determine whether that's accurate or not seems like a drop in the bucket. "

Considering that you (Atherton residents) are probably paying $10-15 million more for public schools than you "use" would you do another study on that "excess'?


Considering that you (Atherton residents) are probably paying $100 million more for national defense than you "use" would you do another study on that "excess'?


4 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2016 at 4:10 pm

It seems like the music is only getting louder, now that the Menlo Park City Council is looking into the same issue as the Town of Atherton, along with the City Manager of Menlo Park announcing last Tuesday night that he understands that the City of East Palo Alto intends to jump on the band wagon. This sounds like a modern day issue of the Hatfields and the McCoys.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 28, 2016 at 11:55 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" now that the Menlo Park City Council is looking into the same issue as the Town of Atherton, "

The Menlo Park Council wisely decided not to participate in the Atherton study.

"he understands that the City of East Palo Alto intends to jump on the band wagon. "

Unlikely once East Palo Alto realizes that the purpose of the Atherton study is to lay the groundwork for taking Fire District resources away from East Palo Alto in order to fatten Atherton's Town coffers.


2 people like this
Posted by firefly
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 30, 2016 at 12:00 am

What if Atherton finds out that it can contract with Calfire for say $6 million per year. Why should they stay in the fire district.


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 30, 2016 at 10:47 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

What if fire insurance companies raise rates as a result of the switch?


2 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 30, 2016 at 11:03 am

What if the sky should fall? Come on folks, "what if's" are useless. What we are seeking are the facts. Facts will lead us to a clear, thoughtful and useful dialogue. Fortunately, most everyone agrees that the Fire District provides an excellent, outstanding and perhaps legendary service to ALL four communities it serves, including, but not limited to the Town of Atherton. The days ahead will provide facts. Let's let the facts guide us to a solution, not conjecture or "what if's". As a popular TV show used to say "just provide the facts mam".


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 30, 2016 at 11:16 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here are the facts - all of which have long been available on the Fire District's web site:

Budget:
Web Link

Comprehensive Annual Financial Report:
Web Link

Standards of Cover Assessment:
Web Link

All incidents map:
Web Link

What is missing?


1 person likes this
Posted by Why?
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 30, 2016 at 11:31 am

Just the facts?

If Atherton is really determined to get the best value for taxpayer money across the board (and I'm not opposed to this concept at all), why just focus on the fire district? It seems to me the police department would have a much more significant impact on the taxes we pay, but I have never seen a true analysis of the costs vs. benefits, just vague opinion surveys that most residents like the police department. By that standard (positive survey disables considering other, more economical, means of getting the same service), the fire district would certainly be exempt from this consideration also.

Seems like a double standard to me, and maybe the answer is as simple as the fire union hasn't supported the candidacy of various Atherton council members.


Like this comment
Posted by Firefly
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 30, 2016 at 11:38 am

Thanks for the links Peter. many people including me wonder why the fire department responds to EMS calls. We have both fire and ambulances show up each time. Seems like we are paying for doubling up on the service


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 30, 2016 at 11:48 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"why the fire department responds to EMS calls."

Great question.

The Fire Department WILL show up within 6 minutes.

The ambulances are a private company working for the County and it will often take 30 minutes for an ambulance to respond as there are far, far fewer ambulances in San Mateo County than there are fire engines. In fact, there are fewer ambulances in San Mateo County than there are fire engines in the MPFPD.
And every MPFPD has at least one fully qualified paramedic.


By virtue of a crazy California law your fire department is prohibited from transporting patients so the fire district cannot provide the ambulance service.

The Fire District once has a badly burned child in EPA and the closest county contract ambulance was in Half Moon Bay. The onsite Fire Captain said screw it and ordered a Stanford Life Flight helicopter to transport the child.

MPFPD was once given a beautiful ambulance by a corporation that no longer needed it and the County prohibited the Fire District from using that ambulance.


2 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 30, 2016 at 12:03 pm

"By virtue of a crazy California law your fire department is prohibited from transporting patients so the fire district cannot provide the ambulance service."

If that is the case, how do you explain the City of Palo Alto - Fire Department having a fleet of ambulances to "transport" their citizens to the nearest hospital?


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 30, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I love a fact based discussion so here are some facts regarding the EMS question:

"In 2014 the Menlo Park Fire Protection District responded to 8,152 incidents, or about 22.33 incidents per day. Of those incidents, 1.13% were fires, 64.60% were EMS, and 34.27% were other types of incidents."

The District wide average of Call to Arrival Response Time (Minutes/Seconds) in 2014 was 6:34 of which 0:24 was the time required for County dispatch to receive the call and send the order to a particular station and then 1:49 for the crew to to hear the dispatch message, don safety clothing, and begin moving the assigned apparatus. The remaining 4:55 was actual travel time.

I challenge any other public service to have these kinds of response times - in fact to even collect and post this kind of data for their service delivery times.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 30, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"If that is the case, how do you explain the City of Palo Alto - Fire Department having a fleet of ambulances to "transport" their citizens to the nearest hospital?"

Easy.

The City of Palo Alto operate its ambulances before the State law was passed that gave the County exclusive responsibility for ambulance services and that law grandfathered agencies like Palo Alto. MPFPD would love to provide ambulance services.


Like this comment
Posted by Data
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 30, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Here's a couple. I'm sure there are more. Just a quick internet search.

There are just as many that do not collect, but just as many do.

Web Link

Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 30, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Data - You have proved my point. Only fire agencies provide this quality of service delivery information and audit them selves against a standard of performance.

Here is MPFPD's standard of performance:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Data
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 30, 2016 at 12:31 pm

"Only fire agencies provide this quality of service delivery information and audit them selves against a standard of performance."

Facts please not hyperbole.

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Even Animal Control:

Web Link

Not vouching for the quality of service of any of these agencies, but some are indeed attempting to audit themselves against standards of performance. That's just good business practice. If we're have a discussion, let's not use hyperbole to make our case. Keep it civil and non-accusatory or the conversation is pointless.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 30, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Data - Thanks for keep proving my point "I challenge any other public service to have these kinds of RESPONSE TIMES"

Your cited reports state:

"from the time a 911 call is answered to the time an officer arriv
es on scene, for Priority 0-2 calls, response times increased from an average of 11.4 minutes to 14.3 minutes."

"As of 2013, the reported national average for police response time was 11 minutes."

Animal control response for a Level 1 emergency times - 20 min. or less only 31% of the time.

No hyperbole here - just facts.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 30, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Data states " but some are indeed attempting to audit themselves against standards of performance."

You are correct; I overstated my case when I said "Only fire agencies provide this quality of service delivery information and audit them selves against a standard of performance."

Some other types of agencies to have standards of performance and some do audit themselves against those standards. Few, however, meet the time standards used by fire agencies in general and MPFPD in particular.


15 people like this
Posted by Oy
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 30, 2016 at 1:36 pm

It's like having a conversation with a wall. Data wasn't vouching for the services or their quality. Only advising that other agencies audit themselves based on performance standards. No one is arguing the quality or professionalism of the MPFPD or comparing them to other agencies. The defensiveness of some posters makes having a real conversation impossible. Observer is right. Bully tactics and deflection abounds.

As I was posting this PC responded. Acknowledging Data's point. Finally. Stop being so defensive. The District seems to be very defensive on this issue, rightly so, but don't be so afraid of at talking through the issues raised without making accusations about others, other services, and motives.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 30, 2016 at 1:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Yo states " don't be so afraid of at talking through the issues raised without making accusations about others, other services, and motives."

Good point. I agree and thank you.


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

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