Fire consultant to say ‘go’ or ‘no go’ by March 3

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At a special mid-monthly meeting on January 20, the City Council awarded a contract with Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) to determine whether the City’s proposal to have its own fire department is feasible.

The request for proposal (RFP) went out December 3, with proposals due by January 4. ESCI was the only company to return a proposal by the deadline. Their proposal asked for 180 days to complete the study at a cost of $70,553.

Because the Fire Start-up Committee had already done a great amount of research, which ESCI had not taken into account, and because the City is on a tight deadline with regard to the CalFire/Riverside County Fire contract, Councilwoman Dawn Haggerty was able to negotiate a shorter time period at lesser cost.

The amended agreement consists of Cameron Phillips, an employee of ESCI, working with the City on a month-to-month basis for $9,600 per month, plus mileage expenses.

Completion of Phase 1, to provide validation of previous research and provide a recommendation to the City Council on whether or not to continue to pursue a stand-alone fire department, would conclude with a presentation at the March 3 City Council meeting.

If a stand-alone fire department is recommended, Phillips would begin a task list included in the contract. This Phase 2 would be scheduled to take place from March 3 to April 14 and would include advising the City in the hiring process for fire chief, negotiating mutual aid agreements, negotiating a dispatch contract, negotiating a medical transport agreement and ordering any needed equipment.

As part of Phase 2, it would be necessary to clearly define the level of service expected to be provided by Canyon Lake with regard to fire suppression, fire prevention, EMS, hazardous materials and technical rescue.

During Council discussion at the January 20 meeting, Councilman John Zaitz expressed his opinion that, when voters approved the temporary tax, it was with the understanding that paramedic services would continue to be provided at Station 60.

In looking over what is proposed in the stand-alone fire department, John said he didn’t see any mention of paramedics, which he believes to be even more necessary than fire services. He questioned why the Fire Start-up Committee would agree to move forward on a go-ahead from the consultant if paramedics weren’t included in the study.

Dawn said the Canyon Lake Fire Department would hire firefighter EMTs rather than having paramedics, since the Fire Start-up Committee had determined the cost for paramedics exceeds the City’s budget. And she said CalFire has indicated it wouldn’t put paramedics at Station 60 either, even if the City decided to pursue a contract with CalFire.

John asked to see the document from CalFire stating it wouldn’t place paramedics at Station 60; which prompted City Manager Ariel Hall to say that the scope of ESCI’s services includes determining the source of medical services.

Ariel said what CalFire has indicated is that it wouldn’t pay for a paramedic squad truck at Station 60, but it would consider having a paramedic on an engine. But determining who provides medical services wouldn’t take place until Phase 2 of the consultant’s work, after the City decides whether to move forward on its own fire department on March 3.

That is unacceptable to John, who ultimately was the lone vote in opposing the resolution to award the fire consultation contract to ESCI.

City hires Charles Abbott Associates

In other actions at the January 20 City Council meeting, the City Council awarded a contract for Public Works, Building and Safety, Planning and Engineering Services to Charles Abbott Associates (CAA). Prior to this contract, the City contracted with three different companies for these services.

The company was one of eight who submitted proposals after the RFP went out last September.

CAA was founded in 1984 by Charlie Abbott to provide customer service to government agencies in the areas of engineering and building/safety. Headquartered in Mission Viejo, CAA provides services to numerous Southern California cities across Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

The key personnel who will be serving the City of Canyon Lake are Jim Morrissey (Planning Manager) with 35 years in public and private planning; Danny Chow, P.E. (City Engineer) with 32 years of experience in design and city engineering; Margaret Monson (Engineering and Public Works) with 27 years in engineering and design; Ron Grider, P.E. (Director for CAA) with 31 years of experience in construction engineering, and building/safety; and Jim Barrett, C.B.O. (Project Manager and Building Official) with over 31 years of experience in construction and building/safety.

The company will provide Building and Safety services during normal City Hall hours, Monday through Thursday. When building officials are not conducting inspections, they will be in the office to assist residents. This will include an electronic permitting system that will increase the speed at which residents’ plans are reviewed and permits issued.

The January 20 meeting, as well as other meetings of the City Council and committees can be viewed at cityofcanyonlake.org.

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Sharon Rice