City Staff Report Recommends Pilot Consolidation of City – UCD Fire Services

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davis_firedepartmentAs we have previously report, a confluence of several factors including the retirement of the Fire Chiefs at both the City of Davis and UC Davis and a bad economy necessitating cost-cutting measures has made what might have been a challenging task of getting all parties to agree to a consolidation of fire services at least one step closer to reality.

According to the city staff report, “With the concurrent retirement of the City of Davis Fire Chief and UC-Davis Fire Chief, as well as the City of Davis Division Chief of Operations, there is an opportunity to assemble and reconstitute the aggregate remaining chief officers to form a functionally consolidated, unified command team for singular management and oversight of both the City of Davis and UC-Davis fire departments.”

City Staff recommends, approval of a resolution that would authorize the City Manager to “execute Management Services Agreement to pilot a functional consolidation of the fire command staff (chief officers), effective September 1, 2010, with a single fire chief and compensation shared between UC Davis and City of Davis.”  Furthermore, it directs “staff to continue to work with UC Davis to prepare for migration of UC-Davis fire dispatching services to City of Davis fire dispatching services.”

The fiscal impact analysis suggests  immediate but moderate efficiency in initial salary savings at the command and administrative levels.  They suggest it would be in excess of $100,000 for each agency.

According to the staff report, “The total compensation for the City’s budgeted command staff (Fire Chief, Division Chief Operations and Division Chief Training) equals $606,556. The University’s budgeted costs currently include $379,559 for a Fire Chief and an Assistant Fire Chief-Operations. The total budgeted expenditure between the two jurisdictions is $986,114. The Management Services Agreement proposes to share the Fire Chief position and compensation between the two organizations and to share Division Chief duties for a total ongoing cost between the two jurisdictions of approximately $804,000. In the immediate future, the City’s savings by sharing costs associated with a Fire Chief are estimated to be over $140,000 for the year. It is worthwhile to note that these savings are likely to be closer to $110,000 per year once a permanent Fire Chief is in place.”

The staff report also goes on to cite a number of one-time but small costs with moving forward with the transitions.

The transition would occur in phases.  “Given the unique opportunity now presented by increased interest from both jurisdictions to further maximize resources and by the retirements of high level management in both departments, staff is recommending a functional consolidation of the remaining command staff to serve in a pilot program for consideration and development of further (up to, and including, full) consolidation of the two fire departments,” the staff report reads.

Phase-1 would consist of sharing the fire chief position and creating a single command structure, with one Division Chief employed by the University and two Division Chiefs employed by the City of Davis.

The staff report also argues, “the formal sharing of Division Chiefs would allow each jurisdiction to operate fully with fewer Division Chiefs than has been the norm in the past.”

The pilot can be terminated within thirty days by either party.  “If either entity decides a merger is no longer feasible or advisable, the pilot may be terminated with 30 days notice.”

fire-department-comparison

Commentary: Merger is a Good Thing, But Look Out for the Hidden Agenda to Bring the Very Costly Battalion Chief Model Online

Last year, the city commissioned the consultants, Citygate, to do a study of fire staffing needs.  There was one finding in that report that was helpful, much to the chagrin of those who have advocated for a fourth Davis firestation. Citygate found that such an expensive endeavor may not be necessary. 

The report argued against moving from four firefighter crews to three firefighter crews, which is a move most cities are down to, both out of fiscal necessity but also due to the fact that under most conditions fire crews do not need four firefighters, and when they do, they can quickly assemble such crews.

Citygate is a consultant company that advises cities about staffing issues. But it should be pointed out that Citygate is run by ex-firefighters.

They argued that fielding three, 3-firefighter crews would be a “noticeable reduction in service.”  But would it?  They argue that it means that the first unit has to wait for the second unit to arrive before entering a structure well involved in fire.  But they failed to cite the number of times a fire crew had to enter a structure in a given year.  Turns out rarely if ever.

“To provide both the speed and weight of the attack, the report continues, and to lessen the need for two units to respond to a modest call,” the report continues, “fielding three 4-firefighter crews is a very effective strategy, given the unusual amount of simultaneous incidents and widely spaced stations.”  But would firefighters typically have to do a building entry in a fire that is modest and would not require a second unit?  That seems unlikely.

Given their assessment Davis needs more than 12 firefighters on-duty, but instead of arguing for a fourth fire station, they argue that “In the combined developed area of Davis and UCD, four fire stations staffed with a total of 15 firefighters on duty are wholly adequate to cover the entire area, if deployed as one system.”

If they do that, they argue that “for the foreseeable future there is no need to build an additional station in Northern Davis until there is significant growth in that area.”

Right there was the genesis of the merger. What is interesting is that they were talking about mutual aid agreements rather than merger.  The city came up with the idea for merger by itself.

All of this information is a refresher for those who have been reading this site for awhile.  But the important point to make is that while the city cites a $110,000 annual savings from the merger, a modest total, the true savings is a lot more because it avoids the necessity of a fourth fire station.  That was listed as an unmet need and that is now taken completely off the table for the conceivable future.

The question that I think remains in my mind is whether we move still to a battalion chief model.  Because if we do, that is a cost increase that was hidden in other cost cutting moves.  Basically they produce the cost savings through including deleted positions that would be deleted regardless of whether or not we went to battalion chief model.

The model would then add three battalion chiefs and a fire marshal, while deleting the two current division chiefs and the fire prevention captain.  They make the total look good by including three firefighter positions and the fire business manager that have nothing to do with the battalion chief model.  AND they have already eliminated those firefighter positions and have done so regardless. 

If you remove those three firefighter positions from the calculations, you find that instead of saving $208,000, it ends up costing the city nearly $200,000 to make the other swaps.  It is a shell game where they are double-counting cost cutting that was to balance the current budget in order to make it look like the battalion chief model produces savings.  It does not.

Moreover, they plan to eventually hire an assistant fire chief replacing the fire division chief of prevention, which would result in a slight increase in cost of $30,000.  The problem is they have already eliminated the Division Chief, which means that in terms of the current budget figure, the Assistant fire chief would not be an offset, but a pure salary add.

Thus, instead of saving the city $177,000 as they calculate, the move actually will cost the city $400,000 more in real dollars than they are spending now.

This is a long way to say that the city would not be saving any real money if they do the merger only to transition to the battalion chief model.  The city with the merger and the battalion chief model will be paying more than they are paying today.  Given the fiscal condition of the city, we cannot afford that.

Thus, I am completely in favor of the merger for a lot of reasons, but leery that it will be used to justify a transition to battalion chief model that we cannot afford and frankly, no one can cite the reason we really need it.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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14 thoughts on “City Staff Report Recommends Pilot Consolidation of City – UCD Fire Services”

  1. Sue Greenwald

    If the City is only saving $100,000 a year, then we have to go back to the drawing board. Consolidation should save far more than that.

  2. Avatar

    Sue , or maybe you truly haven’t taken the time to understand how the system works , or maybe your mind is closed about looking at alternative ideas , when it comes to the fire department .

    Your jaded view of this department and others is unbecoming of a city council person .

    You were elected to make the best decisions you can , based on what facts you are presented with , I feel that you don’t do this .

  3. Rich Rifkin

    Avatar, that may be your most nonsensical post yet.

    You accuse Sue of not understanding the bogus system which you and your friends in the fire union created and pushed through the last council. The problem for you, alas, is she knows what you guys are doing.

    You then accuse her of having a “jaded view of this department.” Frankly, everyone in Davis who is not ripping off the taxpayers has a jaded view of a department which chases ambulances in order to pretend they are keeping busy, a department in which every ff’er is paid overtime in every paycheck, because the ff’ers are paid to sleep, etc., etc.

    You can go on pretending like this system you and Saylor and so on created makes any sense at all to the taxpayers. But the truth is we are going bankrupt because of your system, Ava. And once we file bankruptcy, the jig is up.

    So by attacking me or David or Sue is just a waste of your breath. We can no longer afford you ff’ers ff’ing us.

  4. indigorocks

    Geez you guys need to stop complaining about our fiscal responsibility. Sure it’s bad real bad, but David, why are you not covering the Bell California fiasco?
    The fact that a city council can vote to authorize the salary of the city manager to be 800k is outrageous to me.

  5. indigorocks

    PS.
    Avatar,
    I’m beginning to think that you work for the fire department. Sue is one of the two council members that has done her job, by at least trying to hold out of control spenders accountable.
    The fire department, and public works departments are holding us hostage and taking our money.
    The city manager doesn’t even live here.Actually, many public works employees don’t live here, but they sure could afford to live here.
    PS. David, as far as water prices are concerned, did you know that the only treatment that goes on here in Davis, is driving to the wells and dumping a bunch of chlorine into the wells.
    There’s no filtration NOTHING. And we’re paying all this money for THAT?

  6. wesley506

    Very very few of the Davis firefighters live in Davis and thus could care less if they happen to bankrupt the City.

    80-90% of all fire calls in most jurisdictions are for non-fire medical calls. A firefighter is one on the only occupations where all cancer and heart and lung ailments are considered to be work related and covered by workman’s comp. Be a firefighter and get breast or prostate cancer and it’s a work related injury. Be a firefighter, get old and have high blood pressure and it’s a work related injury. These are truly platinum benefits.

  7. Rich Rifkin

    [b]INDIGO:[/b] [i]”… David, why are you not covering the Bell California fiasco?”[/i]

    He covered it with this story ([url]https://www.davisvanguard.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3615:city-officials-resign-in-wake-of-salary-scandal-in-city-of-bell&catid=83:budgetfiscal&Itemid=104[/url]) and earlier with this one ([url]https://www.davisvanguard.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3591:commentary-when-enough-is-too-much&catid=58:budgetfiscal&Itemid=79[/url]).

  8. Sue Greenwald

    Our firefighters do a great job, and I have always acknowledged that. However, if we don’t get our total firefighting costs in line today, we will not to be able to maintain the quality of firefighting services in the future.

    I am in favor of the consolidation, but only insofar as it is a first step toward future structural changes that will ultimately save far more than $100,000 a year.

  9. Rich Rifkin

    The greatest source of savings in the Davis fire department which is obvious at present is not consolidation with UCD–it’s going back to our old standard of having three ff’ers on each truck. Doing that could save $500,000 or more per year.

  10. E Roberts Musser

    Sue Greenwald: “I am in favor of the consolidation, but only insofar as it is a first step toward future structural changes that will ultimately save far more than $100,000 a year.”

    And what structural changes would accomplish this, other than what Rich Rifkin is proposing, which is to have three man teams? Any other possibilities for cutting costs?

  11. Kona

    To me any savings is good. I have a question, what happened to not just looking at the financial part but looking at the model as something that is a benefit to the taxpayer in the way of helping the people in need or providing a better service overall. What happened to its better for the PEOPLE! I would much rather have one fire department that is consolidated that is not impeded by different policies, procedures and BORDERS when trying to save a life or property. Everyone knows that it is easier to follow the beat of one drum then two drums. To me I look at the benefit to the City and the Campus community as a whole. Money saved is a bonus, but if money is put before the benefit of having a much stronger fire service overall for the Davis/UC community then we are not looking at the BIG picture…a little thing called human life.

    Faster response times, more firefighters responding, everyone on the same page in policies and training, no borders to cross makes a more efficient fire service where seconds count. Its a no brainer.

  12. Kona

    Wesley 506,

    Hit the google button and see how many diseases can be transferred through medical calls to firefighters, Police and Paramedics/EMT’s. Lets see…HIV, Hep C, Meningitis, TB and the list goes on. Not every medical call is for “Help I have fallen and I cant get up”. Have you ever witnessed a CPR, Projectile vommiting is not uncommon, Vehicle accidents can produce large amounts of blood, even a kid running through a home slider and getting cut all over like what happened to my neighbors little son. Blood was everywhere. So firefighters are protected from what I have researched because they will help you REGARDLESS OF THE DANGERS.

    As far as high blood pressure and heart disease. I have read studies on the internet by top universities that have shown how stressed a firefighter gets when they are awaken from a dead sleep (especially during REM), then respond to a call that will raise the stress level, like for example a 2 month old not breathing or having to perform work on a fire wearing 50lbs of equipment wrapped in a sleeping bag they call fire gear. One quote that I heard was that a firefighter goes through more physical stress in the first 10 minutes of a working fire then a linebacker does in one quarter of a super bowl game.

    That does not include the amount of smoke that is inhaled even with all the fancy equipment to protect the lungs. I would imagine, TV’s, DVD players basically all the plastics that are burning in a house produce some pretty bad chemicals and could have the potential to cause some sort of damage over a career. Then you can throw in grass fire smoke on top of it. I would assume that is the reward to a firefighter for having little regard for ones own health to help another.

    Fires seem to be less occuring then the old days, but the amount of “Stuff” in homes that can cause cancer while burning is alot more then the old days too.

    I like these posts, Makes me research some of the posts and I am finding some posts lack merit once I google it and read studies or read to find why something is the way it is.

  13. Kona

    Ok,

    One last thing. I feel that the Fire, Police and medical services are nothing more then an insurance policy. We HATE paying our auto insurance, home owners insurance, Work Comp insurance etc., but when we have to use we are glad that we have it.

    The same goes for the above mentioned. We never pay attention to these special organizations unless it is about money or about tragedy.

    Let me explain what I mean. If a city, county, state government has a financial crisis those dang firefighters make to much money. Cut the staffing to 3 we never have lots of fires. Cut the money. The sleep and get paid blah blah blah.

    Then tragedy strikes- 9/11, Wildfires in L.A., Earthquakes in San Francisco, Bus crash with multiple victims and then all of a sudden firefighters are the bravest and dont get paid enough for what they do. The family that is in front of there house at 3 am in the pouring rain with fire shooting from the roof. The fire department is there in minutes in the middle of the night and not only put the fire out but protect whatever valuables that they can. I bet that family that family is glad that the firefighters were paid to sleep…and then wake up and go to work while the rest of us are tucked in our nice warm beds.

    That family saw there tax money at work and I bet that they are happy with the service. Not every tax payer gets to reap the benefits of paying for a fire department. Most dont want to reap the benefits….because that usually means that something bad has happened to that tax payer or citizen or customer. Most would be just fine never seeing a fire truck in front of there house. as RR put it…let them chase an ambulance going to some other house.

    My memory is not to short. I remember the S.F. earthquake and all the firefighters doing what they do…I remember 9/11 when 343 firefighters were killed doing what they do….I remember while I was at Disneyland many years back watching firefighters on the news in L.A. tired and covered in soot fighting fires in 100 degree tempratures.

    I just want to say that I am happy with the insurance policy we call the F.D. or P.D. or what have you. I hope this consalidation goes through so we have an even stronger insurance policy.

    DFD and UCD keep chasing the ambulances becuase I know that when the ambulance stops and you have completed the chase…some community member will know that they are getting help from well trained, highly devoted PEOPLE that we call firefighters that will risk there own lives to save yours. To me enough said.

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