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City Ponders Fire Contract With County

March 18, 1993|ANDREW LePAGE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

COVINA — The city of Covina is considering scrapping its Fire Department and contracting with the county instead.

Council members Tuesday asked city staff to get more information from the county and to look into the possibility of letting voters decide the issue during the city's scheduled July 13 special election. That election will be held to decide the fate of all five council members, who are the target of a recall drive by a citizens group.

A 2-year-old citizens panel has recommended that Covina contract with the county for fire and paramedic services to save money and provide better service. But council members said they are not convinced.

City officials have estimated that Covina may save about $130,000 a year if the county provides fire and paramedic services, but some council members said that the county's budget could be cut in the future and that the city would have to make up the difference.

The Covina City Council has begun preliminary negotiations on a 10-year contract with the Consolidated Fire Protection District of Los Angeles County. The district has estimated that it will cost $4.17 million to provide fire service to the city during the 1993-94 fiscal year. The city plans to spend about $4.42 million on its own department that year.

Pomona is also negotiating with the fire district in hopes of striking a deal that will save that city tens of thousands of dollars a year. The district already serves 11 San Gabriel Valley cities, all of which have contracted with the county for fire or paramedic services for years.

The fire district wants Covina to fund construction of a new fire station. That station would be centrally located and would serve the eastern part of the city. It would replace Fire Station 1, 400 N. Citrus Ave., and Station 3, 1577 E. Cypress St.

City officials said funding for the new station would probably come from bond issues. They estimate that a new station would cost about $1.3 million.

That bond issue is one reason Richard Gratton opposes the conversion from city to county control of fire and paramedic services. He is the only member of Covina's seven-member citizens review committee who voted against recommending that the city contract with the county.

"Whenever somebody says we're going to give you more for less cost, look out," Gratton warned.

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