By John Meyer and Steve Pinkerton
The city of Davis and UC Davis have been involved in discussions regarding the opportunity to share fire department resources since 1993, when a document titled “Guiding Principles for Collaboration between UC Davis and City of Davis Fire Departments” was signed by city and university leaders.
The first and fundamental priority of this effort is to protect public health and safety in the city of Davis and on the campus of UC Davis. We are fortunate to have two highly trained, effective and professional fire departments located adjacent to one another. Our primary goal has been to build on existing assets and to search for ways to interact, cooperate and collaborate on a daily basis to enhance quality public safety services for the city and the university.
As public officials who are dedicated to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public services in a time of great fiscal challenge, we trust that the citizens of Davis share these same interests.
In July 2010, the Davis City Council voted unanimously to enter into a management services agreement with the university. During this period, the city and UCD had an informal joint governance model with the city’s interim fire chief, Bill Weisgerber, managing the process. While that agreement was “paused” in 2012, the city and UCD still remained open to options for further integration of management services.
When discussions of a partnership resumed earlier this year, the city commissioned a thorough, shared-administrative services analysis that was presented to the Davis City Council on Oct. 15.
That report performed a number of key functions, including:
* Examining agencies throughout the state of California that have entered into agreements to share management of their respective fire departments by pooling resources and sharing managerial duties;
* Describing different governance models used by these agencies to ensure maximum local control of the delivery of fire and life safety services in each respective agency;
* Advising against creating a separate agency; and
* Proposing an organizational structure that does not change the current governance models of either the city or UCD fire departments.
The Davis City Council gave direction to staff to return with a joint powers agreement — not to be confused with the establishment of a new/separate joint power agency or authority — that would achieve the goals of improving and expanding fire and emergency services in our shared communities utilizing existing resources.
Under the proposed agreement, the City Council retains total control of the decision-making process relative to the level of service provided to the citizens of Davis and UC Davis retains total control of the decision-making process relative to the level of service provided to the university. There is no proposal under consideration that would result in the creation of a separate governmental agency or changing of the current governance models relative to the delivery of fire and life safety services.
The proposed agreement will create a management organization structure whereby the fire chief will be reporting to the city manager for city issues and the vice chancellor for university issues. Each agency will continue to have its own authority and powers, however, under a single chief.
A similar fire management model has been implemented between the city of Santa Cruz and UC Santa Cruz. The UCSC fire chief serves as the fire chief for both agencies. However, unlike ours, the UCSC/city of Santa Cruz plan contemplates an eventual full merger of the two agencies.
We believe that this shared services plan will greatly benefit both organizations by enhancing our ability to increase shared and coordinated fire services. These include drastically improved firefighter training, standardized operating guidelines across both agencies, enhanced firefighter safety, efficient implementation of the boundary drop, better public service and cost savings to both organizations.
We hope this clarifies the facts of this proposal and addresses any concerns. The Davis City Council will be discussing this proposal at Tuesday’s meeting. This meeting’s agenda and report, and the Oct. 15 fire management services report, may be viewed online at http://city-council.cityofdavis.org/council-meetings. You may watch the live City Council meeting on Comcast cable Channel 16 or via video streaming at the above referenced link.
— John Meyer is vice chancellor of administrative and resource management at UC Davis; Steve Pinkerton is Davis’ city manager.