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Orange County Focus

ORANGE : Fire Plan Dies for Lack of Support

September 18, 1993|MARTIN MILLER

Councilwoman Joanne Coontz's motion for the council to explore the possibility of contracting with the county for fire services failed this week. None of the other four council members would support her proposal.

With the city still trying to close a $2.1-million deficit in its $44-million 1993-94 budget, Coontz said that contracting for fire services should be examined, since the move might save the city as much as $2 million a year.

The county already provides fire services for 16 cities in Orange County.

Part of Coontz's proposal would have required the council to approve $15,000 for a comprehensive study detailing how it would handle the city's fire services.

After the council meeting, Mayor Gene Beyer and Councilman Mike Spurgeon charged that Coontz was pulling a publicity stunt. Both councilmen said they have no objections to discussing the fire services proposal but resented the manner in which it was brought up.

"The press got copies" of her proposal, said Beyer, who wrote a letter in July asking the county to make a preliminary report about taking over fire services in Orange. "But none of the council did. I think that's significant."

Spurgeon put it more bluntly.

"It was grandstanding, pure and simple," Spurgeon said. "When you see a self-serving announcement and a prepared statement like this, that she didn't share with anyone on the dais, I just can't go along with that lack of teamwork."

Both councilmen said their refusal to proceed with Coontz's motion had nothing to do with sensitive contract talks underway between the city and its firefighters. According to county fire officials, Orange firefighters are among the highest paid in the county.

Coontz denied she was politicizing the issue and said other council members have brought items before the council in a similar way.

"I just asked for this to be agendized," Coontz said. "It's unbelievable that we are sitting on this and not moving forward with the council."

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