Annexation of SPFD hinges on final financial impact report

May 28, 2004
Santa Paula City Council

It’s clear that the city’s police department is staying but the status of the Santa Paula Fire Department still hinges on a financial impact report on costs to annex into the Ventura County Fire Protection District.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesIt’s clear that the city’s police department is staying but the status of the Santa Paula Fire Department still hinges on a financial impact report on costs to annex into the Ventura County Fire Protection District.“When it comes to the Fire Department, our hands are tied right now without all the information,” Councilman John Procter said at the special May 24 meeting dealing with public safety options.At issue is costs and levels of service: the county has offered a plan that would provide the same level of service for an additional $450,000, a cost calculated by the city that would cost Santa Paula an additional $1.87 million to remain autonomous.Bobkiewicz has proposed a public safety tax that is still being studied that would fund both the police and fire departments.The results of the county study on property tax shift impacts on the city – which receives a higher portion of revenue due to the city not being a part of the VCFPD - should be received by the city “in the next several days,” said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz.A consolation would be a “win-win situation,” said SPFD Engineer Jerry Byrum, who urged that the city merge with the county, a move he said would also lower city residents’ fire insurance costs.Confusion over just how many full-time SPFD firefighters support a merger was again addressed when Procter asked President Chris Mahon of the Ventura County Professional Firefighters Association (VCPFA) – which represents full-time SPFD personnel - president if the merger is supported by the “full membership. . .”“Yes it is,” said Mahon.Several full-time SPPD firefighters who have asked not to be identified have said they are opposed to the county annexation but have not offered public comment at the council meetings where the issue has been discussed.
SPFD Captain Kevin Fildes said Monday that he remains a strong supporter of annexation, noting that expanded services include “not only fire protection but also fire prevention. . .I know it’s a tough decision, a lot of heart strings are being pulled on this.”Resident Carol Reese said she supports the annexation based on safety, efficiency and financial.Former VCFPD firefighter Robert “Hoppy” Mumford told the council he also supports the annexation.“I’ve heard it said that the SPFD is as well trained as the county; it’s sort of a myth but I believe it can become a reality with a merger,” Mumford noted. “I believe the department is stagnated and needs to be proactive not reactive.”VCFPD Chief Bob Roper will “do everything he can do,” to ensure that the county hires SPFD firefighters, Mumford added.Procter noted that without the county’s final fiscal report “I won’t believe it. . .we got some surprises,” with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department feasibility study when Sheriff Bob Brooks amended his report to note that SPPD officers would not transfer with their seniority intact.“My biggest concern with the fire department,” is the property tax now received, noted Councilman Rick Cook, and VCFPD Chief Roper “cannot violate the laws and the rules,” of the county when it comes to personnel issues.The SPFD has always had a mutual aid pact with the VCFPD, Cook added.The City Council will continue to discuss the annexation issue at a June meeting.



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