The council will pursue it in stages, and they recognize it is a big ticket item, with the anticipated cost of $1.8 million out of Public Safety Development Impact Fees—but with the city building upwards and looking to continue to densify into the future, the council sees it as the way to go.
Chief Joe Tenney during his presentation noted that most departments are staffing ladder trucks with four personnel. He also noted that, for a normal initial alarm, a residence fire requires 17 personnel, and a three-story apartment building, increasingly common (200 buildings in town), requires 28 personnel, but he acknowledged that level of staffing is difficult even with mutual response in Yolo County.
Additional staff costs and models would be brought back to council.
City Manager Mike Webb noted that this would be taken in a couple of steps—with the item brought back for additional direction from council.
“The lead time (approximately one year) is pretty significant if the city were to pursue the acquisition of a truck here,” he said. “The public safety impact fees… those are fees that are set aside for very specific purposes under state law… These are not general fund dollars for the truck acquisition, I think it’s important to reinforce.”
But he also pointed out that impact fees do not pay for additional staffing.
“Impact fees do not pay for operations and staffing,” he acknowledged. “That’s where we understand and recognize where we’d need to come back and get council direction.”
Councilmember Dan Carson noted that the cost here could be “on the order of $1.5 million a year depending on what complement of staff that we decided upon.”
Carson also noted that UC Davis’s ladder truck is running toward the end of its usable life and they will be facing a similar decision about purchasing a truck.
“I think it would be a really awkward thing for two units of government sitting across the street from each other to both be buying and staffing a new vehicle at about the same time,” he said, wondering if the city could acquire a truck and have the university share in the costs of purchase and operations.
The city was open to that option, but both Will Arnold and Lucas Frerichs pushed back.
Councilmember Arnold said, “I’m less excited about the idea of partnership with UC Davis on this. I think the need has been demonstrated.” He said, “I don’t think UC Davis having this piece of equipment… that doesn’t fulfill the need that we have.”
He added, “We’re short-staffed in our public safety at large. This is something that I want to see addressed.”
Lucas Frerichs added, “In some ways this is déjà vu for me—collaboration with UC Davis. I think we have done a really good job with that in the last couple of years. The shared management experiment was not a success for many reasons—it’s well documented.”
He said he would support a combined fire department, “but have a city fire department.” He noted across the board that UC Davis was the last UC to have its own fire department.
“No other UC campus in the state has their own fire department,” he said. UC Santa Cruz merged with City of Santa Cruz and runs that department. “I still believe that would be the preferred approach eventually, but we’re just talking about a ladder truck here.”
He sees this as an “insurance policy” where he noted that in the last two years a number of buildings were approved that were a minimum of four stories, and as much as seven stories.
“We’ve had multiple structure fires at the University Retirement Community,” he added.
Dan Carson clarified, “I’m not proposing a return to the shared management.” He said that his specific proposal is: “We buy the truck, we staff the truck, we seek a partnership with UC Davis to help pay for all those things.”
He noted that the growth would accommodate students “so we try to make the numbers work.”
Frerichs clarified that he wasn’t suggesting that Carson was suggesting shared management.
He added, “I don’t have any problem with that. I think that we need to take some concrete steps towards a purchase.”
Gloria Partida added, “I realize that this is a lot of money that we are talking about. I’m wondering if this is something that we can slowly ease into as far staffing goes. I think there are a lot of people who would be very nervous about spending this amount of money and resources.”
Dan Carson pointed out that we remain in a COVID economy, and it will take time to purchase the truck anyway. “I just hope we can use this (time) to find the least costly option for staffing.
“I don’t disagree that there is the need for this type of vehicle in this town,” he said. “$1.5 million is the equivalent of the $50 parcel tax—it’s not a minor amount of money year over year.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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