Candidates discuss their views on fire services

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The Chamber of Commerce invited the public to meet the candidates running for Canyon Lake City Council at a forum on Tuesday in the City Council Chamber. Approximately 70 residents attended.

The Chamber’s Past President Dolores Badillo opened the forum. Chamber President Jim Randle mediated the event, and John Guzman served as time keeper.

The candidates were given three minutes to make an opening statement. Candidate Larry Greene opened the candidate introductions, followed by George Middle, Randy Bonner, David Eilers and Jordan Ehrenkranz.

The candidates answered the following eight questions, which were asked by the audience and randomly selected by the Chamber. Each candidate had two minutes to answer the question.

  1. What is the benefit to local business owners to have the City of Canyon Lake remain a city?
  2. What are your thoughts on the BLM land development?
  3. In the next three years what is the most difficult challenge we face and how would you deal with it?
  4. How do you stand on the subject of disincorporation?
  5. How do you propose to attract, and more importantly retain, new businesses to the City of Canyon Lake with offices and stores in the Eastport Center and the Towne Center without expecting the local businesses/Merchant Owners Association to expend their resources to support your vision?
  6. What will be the first order of business when you start your term?
  7. What do you propose to do differently than the past councils to generate new businesses in Canyon Lake?

8.What could you do to make the people passing by on Railroad Canyon Rd./Newport Rd. stop and patronize the businesses in the Towne Center?

After the question and answer portion, each candidate had 2 minutes to make closing remarks.

Over the next few weeks, residents will have a chance to hear from their City Council candidates, learn how much they understand about the City’s current and future challenges, and what each candidate hopes to accomplish if elected to serve a four-year term on City Council.

Residents who have a question they’d like to have candidates answer in The Friday Flyer’s Q&A can e-mail their questions to news@goldingpublications.com.

The general election will take place on November 8. All Canyon Lake citizens registered to vote are eligible to vote for candidates to fill the three available seats on City Council.

In last week’s Q&A, The Friday Flyer asked the candidates to provide their background and why they wish to serve on City Council. This week, The Friday Flyer asked candidates to explain their plans to continue fire services for the City of Canyon Lake. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order according to their last names.

Question:

In 400 or fewer words, please explain what your plans are to continue fire services for the City of Canyon Lake?

Randy Bonner

The solution to a cost effective, continuous fire service for the City of Canyon Lake is pretty straightforward, yet a history of past commitments has not been honored.

The current City Manager Aaron Palmer has extensive experience with fire services, with added free consultation from his father with many more years of the same experience. Aaron is looking at state level support, but the state overhead costs are 12 percent and Riverside County overhead is 8 percent. This combination of 20 percent would increase our fire services approximately $500,000.

Idyllwild and San Jacinto have taken the lead in developing a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to fairly distribute overhead costs among similar communities. Aaron is discussing this JPA opportunity in parallel with the state solution. I congratulate him on his efforts.

Several communities (Temecula, Hemet, Menifee and others) are looking to increase the local sales tax by 1 percent because of increasing safety costs. I believe JPAs are going to be well received once the first (Idyllwild and San Jacinto) JPA comes into fruition.

The question this week from the Editor of The Friday Flyer was relative to fire services. Similar JPA’s would address increased police safety costs as well.

I strongly support the current City Council asking Aaron to have paramedics at Station 60 by July of next year.

To enhance fire services within Canyon Lake, the Quail Valley Fire Station Number 5 needs to move to the “triangle” property just north of the East Gate. We have been told previously by the Riverside County Fire Chief that this could be accomplished in six months or less.

We need to move aggressively to find long term, cost effective, public safety (fire and police) solutions.

Jordan Ehrenkranz

My plans have always been to continue fire services to our City. Unfortunately, the county would not negotiate with us in a fair manner when our contract expired. The county offered a new contract at a 20 percent increase. It is fiscally irresponsible for the county to require the City to pay for services at a level which ultimately will bankrupt the City.

Please note that the City did not close Station 60, but the county withdrew firefighters from the station on July 1, 2015.

The City then operated under the Office of Emergency Services (OES), which provided fire protection for three months. During that time, the county backed down from the offer of 1.8 million and offered us a contract at approximately 1.2 million, which included mutual aid from Elsinore and Menifee, still leaving Station 60 closed.

So now the City is in the process of communicating with state officials regarding Cal-Fire and Riverside County Fire. The City is trying to get clarification as to why Riverside County Fire (Cal-Fire) is quoting the city a cost of approximately 1.8 million to open and staff Station 60 for the coming year with a three-person engine company, including a paramedic, while other cities in the state were given a quote of 1.3 million for the same exact staffing and level of service.

The City also is investigating the possibility of joining the newly formed Joint Powers Authority (JPA) for fire services between Idyllwild Fire District and the City of San Jacinto. The City is waiting on more information from the JPA regarding costs.

David Eilers

I feel that public safety should be the Canyon Lake City Council’s number one priority. The City has already determined that having an in-house fire department is not feasible. The current contract with Riverside County and the cities of Lake Elsinore and Menifee is providing our fire and medical services at a annual cost of about $1.2 million. It’s certainly not the best, but it’s working.

The Utility User Tax (UUT) has brought in more than $1 million in revenue, which has gone into the General Fund. This revenue was promised to help with the re-opening of Station 60. I feel this must be done. A contract with Cal Fire to re-staff Station 60 would probably cost over $1.5 million.

More than 90 percent of our calls are for medical emergencies. Therefore, I believe there are a number of other options to research; one would be negotiating a contract for a two-man truck that includes a paramedic, with fire services to come from stations nearby. Other possibilities might be Joint Powers Authority (JPA) with Idyllwild, or a regional agreement, that could possibly include fire and police service with surrounding cities.

The City Council must come together to make the best possible decision for the entire community.  There must be a unanimous decision presented to the community.

Larry Green

  1. First, I would continue to utilize the current agreement with Menifee, Lake Elsinore and the county to provide fire and EMS services to us. But using this agreement, we have an unacceptable response time to the west side of Canyon Lake of 12 minutes or more. We must explore other avenues for fire and EMS delivery.
  2. The state has been asked to intervene because Riverside County is approximately $500,000 above other counties to which Cal Fire provides similar coverage. This could lower our contract amount with Cal Fire.
  3. Research into entering an agreement with a Fire Protection District already in existence,  i.e. Idylwild Fire Protection District, to provide fire and EMS Services to Canyon Lake.
  4. Enter into a feasibility study with Western Riverside County cities to develop a regional approach for fire, EMS and, in the future, police protection.

The above listed options are based on research from other regions, state and nationwide. I believe Canyon Lake can be a part of one or more of these options to find a longterm solution to our Public Safety issues.

George Middle

In recent years, Fire Station 60 was closed down and the emergency services were met from Menifee or Lake Elsinore fire stations. Negotiations are ongoing between the Canyon Lake Council Members and Riverside County Supervisors as to how to reopen Station 60. To date they have failed to find the finances to cover Station 60 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Why am I so paranoid about this topic?

A personal experience. While living in Poway, my swimming pool filter lid blew off and up into the air. The pressure gauge split open my forehead, with blood streaming from it, and the pump throwing gallons of water over me as I lay on the ground. My wife dialed 911 and four fire engines turned up, including a ladder truck. After a short time, an ambulance turned up. The EMTs placed me on a gurney and into their vehicle, then took me to a local hospital for stitching, etc.

In hindsight, there was no need for all these heavy trucks from the Poway Fire Station to attend my accident.

Medicare supplementary insurance covers a medical transportation emergency. The quicker the patient arrives at the emergency room and starts treatment, the lower the ongoing cost to the medical insurance company.

The proposal for Canyon Lake City and Association.

90 percent or more of emergency calls are for a medical-related need. The POA and City Councilors of Canyon Lake working together need to recognize this Canyon Lake urgent need and purchase the ambulances and employ enough skilled medics to cover 24/7 service.

The City of Canyon Lake has a legal responsibility to cover all emergencies, including paramedic and fire services.

Perhaps the most important of these recommendations will be applying for and obtaining a special phone number, say 999. Dialing this number takes the call immediately to the Canyon Lake Emergency Paramedic Center. A citizen/member of Canyon Lake may still use the 911 number for emergency for fire and vehicle accidents, etc.

Closer to home, Riverside County approved a trial fire contract with San Jacinto City Joint Fire Authority with Idyllwild. Kevin Jeffries stated he preferred to call the proposed two-man unit a medic squad.

The City can afford this scheme, but they will have to ask to extend the date keeping this Utility User Tax.

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Donna Ritchie