Sunday, September 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Fire Department audit suggests cost-saving efficiencies

By
From page A1 | November 20, 2012 |

A cost-saving scenario in which the Davis Fire Department reduces staffing at two of its stations to three-person crews has some local firefighters feeling hot under the collar.

The proposal is contained in a 165-page audit authored by Interim Fire Chief Scott Kenley and presented to the Davis City Council at its meeting last week.

In it, Kenley says the department can achieve annual savings ranging from $360,000 to $560,000 by staffing Davis’ three fire stations with a total of 10 or 11 personnel rather than the status quo of 12, which has been the city’s policy since 1999.

For example, the city could assign five personnel to the department’s headquarters on Fifth Street and three each at the West and South Davis fire stations, or four downtown and three at the outlying stations. Kenley also envisioned a staffing model in which the 10-personnel shifts are boosted when extreme weather conditions — heat, wind, low humidity — create increased risk for grass fires.

The department’s current practice of overstaffing its stations to fill in for firefighters who take vacation or other time off also should be discontinued in favor of bringing back firefighters on overtime, which also could result in cost savings, the report says.

Davis fire Capt. Bobby Weist, who spoke on behalf of a group of firefighters attending the meeting, said the city can expect to see skyrocketing overtime costs and firefighter “wear and tear” if three-person crews become a reality.

“The flavor of this report seems to be money,” said Weist, president of the firefighters’ union, Local 3494. “Nowhere in there did it say that it’s going to improve the service, that it’s going to give the citizens a better service than they’re already getting.”

A suggestion by Kenley that the city relax its boundaries and dispatch a UC Davis Fire Department engine crew, in addition to the university’s ladder truck, for first-alarm structure fires “completely depletes the city,” Weist said. “We have a large amount of simultaneous calls.”

Council members took no action on the report last week, citing the late hour — nearly 11:30 p.m. by the time Kenley concluded his presentation. Instead, they offered brief comments and instructed staff to schedule a future meeting dedicated to an in-depth discussion of the issues the audit raises.

They include the potential for seeking reimbursement for medical-aid services the Fire Department provides — which according to Kenley make up as much as 70 percent of the agency’s calls.

“I would like to see that pursued,” Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson said. “It would be nice to know that we were able to see reimbursement for our services, especially if that is a majority of the responses that we have.”

As for the city’s relatively low number of large structure fires, “there’s a good reason we have less large fires, and it’s because we have adequate personnel to actually attack those fires before they become larger fires,” Councilman Lucas Frerichs noted.

City leaders approved the increase from three- to four-member fire crews at the West and South Davis stations in April 1999, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued its “two-in, two-out” mandate that says for every two firefighters who enter a burning building or rescue situation, two others should remain outside, poised to help in case of emergency.

Keeping four firefighters at every station eliminated the need for a crew to wait for backup to arrive before making that initial entry.

But that’s when Davis, like much of the country, was enjoying strong financial health. When the economy tanked several years ago, city leaders began seeking a variety of measures for trimming the town budget. Talk of reducing fire-crew sizes has proved controversial, however.

“We keep talking about providing excellent services as a city … but I’m not sure we can continue to do it if the emphasis is just on downsizing,” Frerichs said at last week’s council meeting. “There’s trade-offs there, certainly.”

Mayor Joe Krovoza, however, added that the city already has seen its workforce diminished from 425 to 375 employees in just a couple of years’ time.

“Our ability to pay and retain our current employees simply means we have to be as smart as possible across the board,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing at every level of this city — it’s not exclusive to fire.”

Meanwhile, Kenley’s audit also casts doubt on the feasibility of what’s been considered another potential money-saving measure: a merger with the UCD Fire Department that would enable the agencies to share personnel, training activities, policies and procedures.

Those efforts began in the summer of 2010 and eventually saw the consolidation of the two agencies’ dispatch services, but were placed on hold earlier this year due to a variety of issues, including at the time the city’s ongoing firefighter contract negotiations.

In his report, Kenley notes that a merger would create no new funding source and is, in fact, likely to be costly, as “legal counsel will have to be involved every step of the way.”

Both the city and the university have the added challenge of including and appeasing the various stakeholders that would be affected by a merger, including taxpayers, labor organizations, managers and elected officials.

“In the end, there is a strong likelihood that further attempts to fully merge the two fire departments into one agency will have the same results as previous attempts,” which were unsuccessful, Kenley wrote.

He suggested a possible alternative: merging the departments’ management teams, with the creation of a joint-powers authority as employer for the rank of division chief and above. Meanwhile, the city may want to hold off on its recruitment of a new fire chief “if the ultimate goal is the reduction of one chief officer position.”

— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter @laurenkeene

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    Bet Haverim hosts High Holy Day services

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

    Elementary school counselors: necessary, but poorly funded

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Teams assess damage as wildfire burns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Driver arrested for DUI after Saturday morning crash

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    Jewelry, art for sale at Senior Center

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Davis Community Meals needs cooks

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Help raise funds for juvenile diabetes cure

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Da Vinci awarded $38,000 for restorative justice program

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

     
    Hawk Hill trip planned Sept. 30

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    UC campus chancellors granted hefty pay raises

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

     
    Send kids to camp!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Outdoor yoga marathon celebrates community

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Wise words

    By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A12

     
    .

    Forum

    Awareness is key to this fight

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Are we there yet? Not enough hours in the day to goof off

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A6Comments are off for this post

    Where is this going?

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A6

     
    We’re living in the Golden State of emergency

    By Debra DeAngelo | From Page: A6

    Options for protection come with flu season

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

     
    It’s time for Davis Scouts to stand up for what is right

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    Mike Keefe cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

     
    Building something at schools’ HQ

    By Our View | From Page: A10

    Don’t sell city greenbelt

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Paso Fino project is flawed

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Paso Fino — it’s not worth it

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Archer will get my vote

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Maybe David can beat Goliath again

    By Lynne Nittler | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    Speak out

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    .

    Sports

    DHS gets on its Morse to beat Edison

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    JV Blue Devils drop low-scoring affair

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B2

     
    Four local swimmers qualify for Olympic Trials

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    Republic FC’s fairy tale season continues

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Wire briefs: Giants rally falls short in San Diego

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    ‘We’re a way better team’ than record, says UCD’s Shaffer

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B4 | Gallery

     
    UCD roundup: Aggie men pound Pomona-Pitzer in the pool

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B4

    Davis 15-year-old making a splash in European F4 series

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    ‘Ladies Foursome’ adds shows

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    .

    Business

    UCD grad’s startup earns kudos at TechCrunch event

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    Styles on target for November debut

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A7

    MBI hires VP of marketing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Taylor Morrison unveils new Woodland community next weekend

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Rob White: What is an ‘innovation center’?

    By Rob White | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Carol L. Walsh

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, September 21, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B8