At one point in time it seemed likely that the city’s Shared Management Agreement with UC Davis on fire would be in jeopardy. Both sides have until July 1 to determine whether they wish to pull out of that agreement or it automatically extends until December 31, 2016. The city’s intentions appear to be laid out in the fire department portion of the budget item.
While the chief stopped issuing monthly public updates as recently as September, the updates showed that the changes were working, as a result of things like boundary drop and the decoupling of the rescue apparatus – fire equipment remained in place to respond to calls for service and there were far fewer occurrences where a fire engine had to move from an outlying station to the central station, leaving the outlying area uncovered.
Those changes – which were not reflected in the 2014-15 Department Accomplishment – meant that there were improved response times and fewer times when the fire department had to respond from the central location out to the periphery of town on the east and the west. However, the budget does note, “Continued refinement of resource deployment under the boundary drop and updated 1st Alarm assignment.”
The budget also notes the continued “partnership with the West Valley Regional Fire Training Consortium for career development of all staff,” which has led to an improvement in the training of firefighters.
Last year we saw the hiring of five new firefighters which allowed the department to have a full contingent of firefighters on each shift, alleviating previous problems of excessive overtime and workload.
The budget highlights are interesting. The report notes that the budget is increasing by $362,792, explaining “This is primarily due to: $180,676 in costs for the shared services agreement with the University of California Davis (UCD); addition of FLSA [Fair Labor Standards Act] required overtime costs ($92,000); and the addition of one-time safety equipment purchases ($166,000), all net of the removal of FY14-15 anticipated MOU increases, which are still under negotiation and have not been included in the FY 15-16 budget.”
It goes on to note, “Operations and Maintenance expenditures for FY 15-16 include increases in contract services cost of $180,676 for the City’s share of the shared services agreement with UC Davis. A portion of this increase is offset by revenue from UCD for their share of City services ($145,551). In addition $20,000 in funding was included for a 50% shared Office Assistant position with UC Davis in support of the shared services agreement, as well as $5,000 of one-time funding for equipment/supply needs in the City’s Emergency Operations Center.”
Why is the city seeing an increase in costs due to the city’s share of the shared services agreement? This has to do in part with a shift in how the division chiefs’ salaries were going to be handled. Originally the goal was to move the division chiefs onto the UC Davis payroll which would have generated savings. However, last June, the city made the closed session decision to keep the division chiefs on the city of Davis payroll.
With the five new hires, we see the further shift in fire staffing resources. Back in 2012-13, there were 32 Firefighter II positions and 1 Firefighter I position. By 2013-14 that number decreased to 27 Firefighter II positions, reflecting proposed changes in fire staffing, but temporarily that gap was filled through overtime.
In the current year, with the hiring of five new firefighters, we see 5 Firefighter 1’s along with 22 Firefighter II’s for an overall staffing of 27 firefighters along with 9 captains.
When the Vanguard met with City Manager Dirk Brazil and former City Manager and UC Davis Vice Chancellor John Meyer, it was explained that, while the report did not look into the fire department, Mr. Brazil believes that most likely the shared management will stick past July.
John Meyer pointed out that fire always needs the cooperation from other agencies. In the mutual aid agreement, fire is constantly relying on inter-agency cooperation.
As such, he believes it is better that fire is trained in a consistent way with other departments.
The budget proposal appears to reflect the view that it continues to make sense to have some sort of joint operations of the fire departments.
—David M. Greenwald reporting