A big red fire engine did bring Santa to the tree-lighting ceremonies this year, but it wasn’t Canyon Lake’s familiar Engine 60. Station 60 is still closed.
As the City of Canyon Lake continues to research the possibility of having its own fire department by next year at this time, officials recently issued a Request for Proposal for Fire Department Consulting Services that can be read at cityofcanyonlake.org. Proposals are due at City Hall by Monday, January 4.
According to the RFP document, the City will attempt to negotiate an agreement with the highest-ranking firm to provide the specified services. Evaluation will be made on the basis of the criteria noted below. Criteria are listed in random sequence and are not considered in any rank or order of importance.
- Experience of firm, particularly of staff assigned to supervise and administer this contract.
- Education and experience of personnel assigned.
- Demonstrated knowledge of public agencies, particularly smaller comparable municipalities.
- Understanding of the needs and requirements of the City.
- Quality of references.
- Proposed costs.
- Content, quality, completeness and form of submitted proposal.
According to the RFP document, the City’s primary focus is to develop its own fire department. The purpose of the feasibility analysis would be to review all pertinent issues of starting a fire department, including the financial position of the City, and make a recommendation to the Council on the feasibility of a City- run fire department, with any options regarding contracting out any part of the department for a more cost effective fire department.
The considerations would include start-up costs, staffing, training, equipment, EMS, facility, dispatch, and any other pertinent considerations. This study should identify the needs and costs to accomplish this.
Project tasks shall include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:
- Meet with representatives from all agencies, including City and County officials.
- Identify current costs of establishing fire services: staffing requirements, personnel training, administrative and technical support; facility requirements and responsibilities; and equipment purchasing.
- Overall costs and areas of financial savings.
- Salary and benefit comparisons.
- Challenges, opportunities, weaknesses and strengths of a City-owned fire department versus participating in a Master Agreement with the County.
- Administrative oversight and cost, including legal, risk management, information systems, and personnel.
- Transition costs, including: apparatus and equipment, computer hardware and software, system compatibility, record management system, facility physical upgrades, furniture/consoles.
- Address issues including, but not limited to: Hazardous Materials Response, paramedics, career and volunteer transition, recruitment and retention, binding arbitration, promotions, demotions, emergency planning, and vibrant sustainable volunteer program, if applicable.
- Governance, command and control including but not limited to: command staff and succession planning.
- Recommendations for further action and a detailed discussion with the County and other applicable agencies of critical issues and variables that will be important in these efforts if the City determines to proceed with this project.
- Comparison of pros and cons for City-recommended staffing models with recommendations.
- Creation of policies and agreements that may determine staffing levels and practices.
- Review of municipal ordinances related to fire and EMS delivery as well as mutual aid agreements and resources.
- Creation of Standard Operating Guidelines for the fire department.
- Creation of a long-range plan.
- Creation of replacement plans for vehicle fleets and a future needs assessment.
- Evaluate and make recommendations on communication systems, including dispatch systems, radio, CAD, and other related systems/programs.
The RFP document includes a brief history of Canyon Lake, its attempts in recent years to negotiate with CalFire/Riverside County Fire for reduced costs and the reasons Fire Department Consulting Services are sought.
The document says, in part, that “Since the City’s incorporation in 1990, the City had participated in a Master Agreement with Riverside County and CalFire for fire services. This agreement, which provided fire protection services to 21 cities and a Community Services District in Riverside County, utilized CalFire (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) resources.
“Costs to the City had risen consistently and precipitously over the years, primarily due to a forced increase in the staffing level on each fire engine as well as pension costs and fixed costs under the Master Agreement. This staffing increase had no legal basis and resulted in deficit spending by the City for many years.
“Canyon Lake is a built-out community with virtually no short-term ability to increase its revenues through economic development . . . In November 2014, the City passed a Utility Users’ Tax (UUT) measure, but this only provides financial ‘breathing room,’ and does not solve long-term fiscal problems of the City.”
The RFP document briefly explains the City’s attempts to resolve contractual and financial issues with County Fire, saying, “Those attempts further degraded during a contractually-obligated mediation wherein the County and CalFire refused to engage in meaningful discussions and made it clear they would not even consider entertaining more realistic options for the City.
“In January 2015, a Declaratory Relief Action was filed by the City and a related lawsuit was filed by the County. In September 2015, both actions were settled by the City and the County, and the City and County entered into a one-year agreement for fire services to be provided to the City by neighboring County Fire stations, leaving the fire station within the City limits empty. Faced with the issues raised by the County, the City has decided to move forward to form its own fire department.”