Without fee, fire station could close
Posted: Friday, Sep 14th, 2007
BY: DAVID CARKHUFF
Corralitos and four other communities could lose one of their fire stations if a ballot measure fails to pass this fall.
“If nothing is done, we face cutbacks in trained emergency responders and/or closure of some local fire stations from November through May,”
“Local volunteer firefighters also rely heavily on Santa Cruz County Fire for training, tools and equipment, and also face funding cuts if nothing is done,” Mark Hickey, engineer with Corralitos Volunteer Fire Department, wrote in a press release.
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors placed a measure on the ballot that, if passed, would charge homeowners $8.99 per month more for each single-family residential property served by Santa Cruz County Fire. This assessment would roughly double the amount that each resident pays, Hickey estimated. All funds raised by the measure would remain in local communities and could only be used to ensure and directly support fire protection and emergency medical response, he said.
“This is the fee that’s going to buy the replacement fire engines, water tenders and rescue vehicles,” Hickey said. “We want to provide the best service that we can without cutting anything. The downfall of this is if it doesn’t get passed is one of the stations will get closed.”
Asked which one, he said, “There’s a decision that has to be made. We don’t want the Board of Supervisors, who are the board of directors for county fire, to have to cut staffing in order to buy new engines.”
Santa Cruz County Fire protects the communities of Bonny Doon, Davenport, Summit/Loma Prieta, South Skyline and Corralitos. During high fire danger season (June through October), California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is responsible for staffing seven fire stations in these communities. Outside of high fire season, three stations are closed and Santa Cruz County Fire keeps four stations open.
With an additional $8.99 per month per property, Santa Cruz County Fire would allocate 62 percent of the money for replacement equipment, 33 percent for staffing and the balance for maintenance, Hickey said.
Four or five months ago, firefighters tested the waters by conducting an opinion poll, and the ballot measure enjoyed support in the high 80 percent range, Hickey said.
“The people in the South County and Corralitos area understand it — they’re very supportive of it,” he said.
Santa Cruz County Fire hasn’t purchased new equipment for more than 10 years, he said, and the cost has increased.“Engines aren’t $100,000 anymore. An average new engine is $300,000 plus. That’s on the lower end of the scale,” Hickey said.
Without upgrading equipment, a fire department can receive a lower insurance standards office rating, which affects homeowners’ insurance rates.
“In the long run, the homeowners’ insurance will go back up,” Hickey said, potentially amounting to more than the cost of the assessment.
Ballots are due by 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, when county supervisors will conduct a public hearing on the assessment at 701 Ocean St., Room 525, Santa Cruz. In compliance with Proposition 218, the ballot measure needs majority support to pass.
(Published in 9/14/07 edition)