PALOS VERDES ESTATES — The city Fire Department will be dismantled and firefighting duties will be taken over by the county's Consolidated Fire Protection District on July 1 under a plan approved last week by the City Council.
City Manager Gordon Sibert said the agreement, under which the city will pay the county $1.28 million in the coming fiscal year, will improve paramedic and fire services in the community. While the city may save money initially, the transfer was not primarily to cut costs, he said. This year, Sibert said, the city spent $1.34 million on the department.
"If there are savings in the short run or long run, that's icing on the cake," he said. "What we wanted was better services for our residents."
The city will benefit from the county's plentiful and sophisticated resources and equipment, such as helicopters, Sibert said. In addition, in major emergencies the city will be provided services by four other county fire stations on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
10 to Be Transferred
The county has agreed to absorb the city's 16 firefighters. Six will stay in Palos Verdes and the rest will be reassigned. City fire Capt. Dennis Colmerauer said the new assignments have not been announced. The vacated positions in Palos Verdes will be filled by county firefighters.
The fate of one firefighter, who failed the county's required fitness exam, is uncertain.
Don Winton, 53, said he failed because of respiratory problems. A 21-year veteran of the department, Winton said he hopes he can stay on.
Although a handful of older firefighters will be demoted one step as a result of the transfer, most firemen will receive greater job benefits and modest raises, according to Colmerauer.
90% Approve of Move
Colmerauer said the Palos Verdes Estates Firefighters Assn., which represents the city's firemen, supports the transfer, as do most of the firefighters.
"About 90% of the members of our association are extremely excited and happy about the change," he said. "It gives you the opportunity to move to places in other parts of the county, near your new job, where housing is affordable. Our younger men who move in, if they are able to afford a house, have been driving 70 and 80 miles to work here."
He said the firefighters are also looking forward to greater opportunities for advancement within the much larger county department, adding that it has a reputation "as one of the best departments in the country."