The Canyon Lake City Council held a special meeting on Monday, April 9, to vote on a cooperative agreement to provide fire protection, fire prevention, rescue and medical aid for the City of Canyon Lake and for a budget adjustment.
As a result of the meeting, Station 60 will remain open, the engine will continue to be staffed with two firefighters and one paramedic, and the cost of the fire service is now shared with Riverside County. The agreement with Cal-Fire/Riverside County Fire goes on record beginning July 1, 2011 and ends June 30, 2015.
The City has been dipping into its reserve fund for the last two years to continue the level of fire service the City has received since the last agreement signed in 2006. Efforts to raise about $960,000 annually for police and fire protection were included in Measure E, which was rejected by voters in June 2011.
Lori Moss addressed the Council, highlighting points about the contract. She began by pointing out the contract is a “cooperative agreement” – the City and the Council desire to contribute among the participating parties for staffing costs for one fire engine company, with the County contributing $132,000 for the first four years of the agreement.
Lori noted, "The City would obtain additional funding from other revenue sources in the amount of $125,000 for the first two years of the agreement, with the City paying the remainder of all years."
The $125,000 “other source” to which Lori referred was on the April 10 agenda of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. The motion included approval of the use of Community Improvement Designation(CID) funds for City of Canyon Lake in conjunction with the approval of the Fire Protection Services Agreement in the amount of the contribution of $125,000. The decision required a 4/5 vote and was approved at the Board of Supervisors meeting.
"With these contributions, the City does not need more than $200,000 from the reserve fund to balance the budget," says Lori.
The estimate is per year. Barry and Lori both commented with optimism that the housing market, according to experts, is on its way up, and those taxes will help with the future financial need for fire services.
Prior to voting, Council member Mary Craton asked for clarification on the lease of the fire engine, and wanted confirmation that leasing, instead of owning, is better for the City.
Cal Fire/Riverside County Division Chief Steve Gallegos addressed Mary's question and explained that the cost of an engine is over $380,000.
"The benefit to leasing an engine, as Canyon Lake has been doing, is that all maintenance is covered by the Riverside County. If the engine needs to be repaired, or even replaced, it is part of the leasing agreement," said the chief.
Public comments were made by Jack Wamsley and Larry Green, both thanking the Council for their work in getting a contract.
"No one likes to draw from their reserves, but it's providing us what we need in our community," says Larry.
Council member Talbot noted, "This agreement has conditions to protect the City that the previous agreement did not have. I like that."
According to Supervisor Bob Buster's chief of staff, Dave Stahovich, the contract permits the City to request reduced staffing at its station, since 98 percent of Canyon Lake's calls are medical, rather than fire-related, but the agreement includes that either party must give a year's notice.
Resident John Guzman commented that the fire department has few calls for fires, and that the City should be focusing its attention on services that help with medical aid.
Division Chief Gallegos informed John and the Council that the firefighters at Station 60 are licensed as Emergency Service Technicians (EMTs).
EMTs offer medical assistance in providing respiratory assistance to patients, assist with occurrences of cardiac arrest, respond to traumatic emergencies and can use medical and healthcare equipment.
The engine also has one paramedic. Paramedics provide more extensive pre-hospital care than do EMTs. In addition to carrying out the procedures that EMTs use, paramedics can give medications orally and intravenously, interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs) – used to monitor heart function – and use other monitors and complex equipment.
Riverside County contracts out with American Medical Response (AMR) for patient transportation services to local hospitals. Each AMR response team also includes one EMT and one paramedic.
The vote of 4-0 (Council member Horton was absent) brought out cheers from the Council and members of the audience. Council member Talbot noted, "I understood it should not have taken this long but I am happy with the outcome."