Audit North County Fire Authority Ad – October 2014

Audit North County Fire Authority

by Victor Spano

During a June 2014 meeting of the Pacifica Rotary Club, Pacifica City Manager Lorie Tinfow said that after labor agreements with Fire personnel were completed, the City of Pacifica would take a close look at the North County Fire Authority Joint Power Authority Agreement (NCFA).  I Applaud this.  Fireservices comprise a substantial part of Pacifica’s budget.  We should review important agreements such as NCFA every few years.

I have met current and former firefighters from Pacifica who expressed concerns about the NCFA.   I spoke with a former Pacifica Battalion Chief about level and quality of service, as well as the condition of the two fire stations, particularly regarding Seismic Safety.  I propose that a “Blue Ribbon Committee” including some of these current and former firefighters convene to assist Pacifica’s City Manager and Council at “looking at the North County FireAuthority”.  Fire Chief Ron Myers would be welcome.  Perhaps a better NCFA for Pacifica could be the result, and I favor that.  And if not, let’s look at alternatives, such as South San Francisco, who runs our dispatch, or Cal-Fire.

Did you know that Daly City City Manager Pat Martel has ultimate authority over our Fire Chief with regards to Pacifica’s fire services?.  This is according to Chief Myers, who graciously answered my questions, about NCFA.  I asked him under whose pleasure does he serve, all three city managers (Pacifica, Brisbane, Daly City), or just Daly City’s?   “The Fire Chief works directly with each City Manager, but the Daly City Manager has ultimate oversight in the current arrangement, as the Fire Chief has an employment agreement with the City of Daly City.

Daly City has been a strong and valuable neighbor and partner in providing and administering Fire Services, however, Daly City City Manager Pat Martel should not have “ultimate oversight” over the chief with regards to Pacifica’s operations.  This is unacceptable to me. The NCFA JPA needs to be revised so our City Council and our City Manager have that “ultimate” authority over the Fire Chief with regards to Pacifica.

I asked Chief Myers about the condition of Pacifica’s fire stations. Chief Myers said, “Like most cities within San Mateo County there is a need to either seismically retro fit or build new fire stations.  NCFA has applied for grant funds and looked into loan funding opportunities, but has not been able to secure dollars for these projects.  The 2 fire stations have been identified in the City of Pacifica capital plan, but with the financial situation during passed years and present it remains within the future.”  

Acknowledging he is right about the difficulty in finding funding. Our current City Council and our City Manager could and should be more visible and vocal in terms of Leadership regarding the condition of Pacifica’s Fire Stations.  The recent earthquake up north reminds us that we need the Fire Stations to be intact in the case of a major seismic event.  They are a place of respite and hold vital equipment for rescues and lifesaving.  As a council member, I would be more than willing to work with the Chief Myers towards securing funding to retrofit or rebuild Pacifica’s fire stations.  This is most important, a matter of life or death.  If fire trucks and fire fighters are buried under collapsed buildings, where are we in an emergency situation?   I feel the lack of attention on this issue reflects back on Daly City City Manager’s “ultimate oversight” of the Chief, and consequently our Fire operations.

These are the sort of questions that I ask now, and will ask, on your behalf, on many issues, as your Council member.  Be sure to VOTE by mail or in person on November 4th.

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