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Pomona's Plan to Contract for County Fire Services in Doubt

July 27, 1986|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

POMONA — Three months after rejecting a proposal to contract with Los Angeles County for police services, city officials say that a plan to have the county handle fire services also appears doomed.

A long-awaited study, prepared by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, offers three contracting alternatives that it says could provide this financially strapped city with yearly savings ranging from $682,000 to $1.8 million.

But faulty statistics in the report as well as continuing concerns about the loss of local control have convinced a majority of the City Council that the contracting does not appear feasible.

Incorrect Data Cited

Acting Pomona Fire Chief Ron Robertson, who originally had intended not to comment on the plan until the council began discussions next month, said that out-of-date salary figures and the duplication of workman's compensation costs in the study significantly reduce the projected savings.

Consequently, annual savings from the only contracting option that would maintain the current level of fire protection amount to about $300,000 rather than the reported $682,000, Robertson said.

"To me that would be negligible, especially when you look at the loss of local control," he said.

Similarly, Councilman Vernon Weigand said that he would support a contracting plan only if it projected "significant" savings at an equal level of service.

Councilmen Disappointed

"I was rather disappointed that (the savings) didn't come to a larger figure," Weigand said. "Looking at the figures, there's no chance I would vote for it."

Councilman E.J. (Jay) Gaulding agreed that savings would have to be larger to justify a loss of local control.

"It would have to be over $2 million for me to even start looking at a savings proposition," Gaulding said. "And that's even a little skimpy."

Mayor G. Stanton Selby said that he wanted to study the proposal more closely, but added that without considerable savings it was unlikely the contracting plan would be approved.

"As it appears, it doesn't seem to have those benefits," Selby said. "I don't think it's going to fly."

However, Vice Mayor Mark Nymeyer, who had been disappointed by the council's quick decision in April to reject the police contracting proposal, said that he was pleased that the city had at least the option to consider a money-saving alternative.

"I can't say that I'm not in favor of it," Nymeyer said. "I don't think we should just throw it out the window."

The study, which uses the Pomona Fire Department's 1985-86 budget as the basis for its calculations, lists three alternatives for contracting with the county for fire protection services.

The first option, and for some of Pomona's five council members the only choice even marginally acceptable, would be to have the county maintain all eight city fire stations with 35 firemen.

The only difference from current service levels would be use of the county's one two-man paramedic unit in place of two private local units currently on standby. Under this plan the city would save about $682,000 a year, the study states.

A second option, which offers savings of about $1.7 million, would require the closure of Station 6 on Bonita Avenue, the elimination of an engine company at Station 1 on Park Avenue and a reduction from 35 to 31 firefighters. The city's paramedic service again would be replaced by the county service.

And a third option, which offers savings of about $1.8 million yearly, would entail the closure of Station 1 and Sation 6, the reduction of personnel to 31 firefighters and the change in paramedic service.

If the county provided the services, 10 stations would be within a five-mile radius of the city and could quickly provide men and equipment in the event of a major multiple-alarm fire, said Asst. County Fire Chief James Hunt.

"If we didn't feel it was in our best interests or in the best interests of Pomona we wouldn't have made the study," Hunt said.

While unimpressed by the contracting options, city officials say that they are interested in a so-called "reverse contracting" plan, under which the county would pay the city to service a portion of unincorporated Diamond Bar.

Robertson said that he would make a proposal to the council next month asking that any income derived from the reverse contracting arrangement be used to restore cuts made in the Fire Department's 1986-87 budget.

Indeed, city officials had hoped that the fire service proposal or a similar plan to contract with the county for police service--expected to save nearly $2.5 million--might have helped to fill the $3.9-million budget shortfall that had been projected for this year.

A third proposal to consider having the county provide library services also has been rejected by the council.

Budget Cuts and Tax Hike

In an emotional meeting last month, the council resolved the shortfall by approving a $37.9-million budget that called for $1 million in cuts and a 57% increase in the local utility tax.

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