Council hears from ESCI consultant

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The Canyon Lake City Council held a special meeting Wednesday, March 16, to hear from Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) representative Cameron Phillips. ESCI developed four options that the City could implement as a solution for its fire services needs:

Option 1: Continue to contract with Riverside County Fire.

Option 2A: Develop and operate its own full-time City Fire Department using CalPERS as its retirement plan.

Option 2B: Develop and operate its own full-time City Fire Department using a defined contribution model as its retirement plan.

Option 3: Develop and operate its own full-time City Fire Department using part-time staffing to fill department fire suppression positions.

Mr. Cameron noted ESCI is only recommending Option 1, 2A or 2B.

At this time, the cost for providing fire protection and emergency medical services are unknown. The City will have to request bids from qualified providers of such services.

According to ESCI, there are a number of decisions that need to be made to develop and maintain a stable level of protection for the community. Included in those steps are not only operational considerations; but more importantly are structural financial constrains and future long-term sustainability.

Finding 1 – The financial sustainability for future fire protection in Canyon Lake is unknown, as revenue levels will drastically reduce at the sunset of the current Utility User Tax (UUT) in December 2020.

Finding 2 – There likely will be a long-term challenge for the City to meet contract cost increases from Riverside County Fire/CalFire.

Finding 3 – The City must notify CalFire by March 30, 2016 of its intentions to engage in a new CalFire contract or terminate the contract on September 30, 2016 and initiate efforts to start a City of Canyon Lake Fire Department.

Finding 4 – All options presented will require continuance of current revenue levels as fostered by the UUT or other as yet undetermined revenue sources.

Finding 5 – Options 2A and 2B implement a full-time staffed city-based fire department that is operationally feasible and would provide a reasonable level of service; however, the question of long-term financial sustainability should be resolved before endeavoring these options . . .

Finding 6 – Options 2A and 2B will require substantial efforts to implement a stand-alone fire department . . . Should the City select either of these options, start-up preparation and a department going “live” would likely be beyond the September 30 CalFire deadline.

Finding 7 – Option 3, a full-time city-based fire department model utilizing “part-time” staff will present constraints in terms of receiving and giving regional automatic aid . . . CalFire will not negotiate an automatic aid agreement with a department staffed as such.

Finding 8 – Without automatic aid from nearby agencies, a “part-time” system will provide only a single resource to respond to incidents in the city . . .

There were three additional findings; the entire report can be read in this week’s special meeting agenda. But ESCI noted in its final finding that, in the event the UUT sunsets in 2020 and no other recurring revenue source is found to replace it, none of the options are sustainable. Even the “part-time” staffed City Fire Department (Option 3) becomes untenable after 2020.

ESCI recommends that, before the City chooses any option, elected officials and staff need to establish strategies to address and secure long-term financial resources.

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