Fire Chief Louder recommends station closures, service reductions for ConFire

Contra Costa County Fire Chief Louder presented a service reduction plan to the Contra Costa County Supervisors today that will close four fire stations. The “plan” will reduce the $7.5M budget deficit for upcoming year by only by $3M, leaving a deficit of $4.5M, with no reserves and slower response times.

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Following the defeat of Measure Q, a parcel tax to help fund expenses, Chief’s recommendations offered only service cuts without addressing voter concerns over alternate service models or pension and salary reforms.

ConFire, under the watchful do-nothingness of the County Supervisors, has spent its entire reserve over the past 5-yrs without addressing its burgeoning costs and structural deficits. Station closures will take place in Martinez, Clayton, Lafayette, and Walnut Creek. See the Service Reduction and Station Closure documents below.

ConFire presents half a loaf.

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Comments

  1. Wendy Lack says

    “Minimum staffing is sacrosanct” for fire unions. This case study from Milpitas raises inflexibility to an art form. It’s ultimately self-destructive: like gangrene, keep this up and it doesn’t end well for anyone. See: http://bit.ly/XvX0bd

  2. AntiUnionParasite says

    Our Governor Brown signed a bill to reform the pension problem, it was enacted, and probably was passed through legal council state attorneys. Now, I think it is the responsibility of the state attorney general to defend that bill against union parasites.

  3. TaxOutFool says

    The unfunded pension balloon may be the trigger for ending public employee unions. The circle of the tax dollar originating from the taxpayers moving through the public entities who pay the firefighters of whom give the public employee unions money to contribute to the politicians that control our tax dollars should be illegal. We only have just begun seeing the results of this non regulated conflict of interest in our government with the billions of unfunded obligations.

  4. Pete Laurence says

    MARY & CC Supervisors,

    It is very disappointing that the Board ever gave such unsustainable benefits to the Firefighters Union in the first place. As you know to fill a firefighter vacancy has applicants lined up for miles for the few slots, and as you also know, being a firefighter in Contra Costa has nowhere near the challenges or risks of the big cities like Oakland, San Francisco.

    Furthermore NO Public employee should retire on more than about a 2/3rds salary of when they were actually working, much like our brave Military who have a harder, riskier and lower paid job. What has gotten into our “Public Officials” that really seem to represent public Unions rather than the Public citizens?

    Please re-visit the entire Fire Department Issue and get it straightened out, not just the “status quo”.

    This article (Benecia firefighters labor deal) shows one way of many to accomplish it, and the CC Taxpayers Association and the CC Times have also given you many other ways to get control of this situation NOW, not when things are all shredded to pieces anyway.

    http://www.dailybreeze.com/california/ci_22203515/benicia-strikes-deal-firefighters-that-would-save-over

    Other than that Mary, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

    Please Copy this to the other Supervisors, Thank-You. – PETE LAURENCE, Clayton

    • TaxOutFool says

      Pete, Your comment makes complete sense. The problem that we are facing is a group of Supervisors including Mary that are dumbfounded in fixing this fiscal cliff. The same Supervisors that go back to the beginning of the over generous public tax money giveaway to fire benefits are still there. The comments that these supervisors make regarding the excuses of being unable to fix the problem are idiotic and plain stupid. If the founders of our country had this same type of sense, we would not have a United States. It is our fault for re electing these self serving political puppets of the union or not recalling them. The real part is that the clock continues to tick on draining the coffers and what will be a day of reckoning to fix the problem or bankrupt the county. I doubt that we will see any real progress out of this elected body as long as they keep getting their own pay checks and pacifying the public.

    • Friend of H to C says

      Pete, while the Benicia link sounds like that city has solved some of their problems regarding the BFD contract I seriously doubt it is the case. Like always, the devil is in the details and they (the city & unions) count on the public to ignore the details while focusing on the headlines. I think that’s what you’ve done here.

      It is all too typical for the city/union to claim cost savings in BOLD TEXT, while also providing backend compensation that never sees print. I’ve seen the same thing many times over the past six months. If one union gets away with it they all try the same thing, and many have the same consultants negotiating their contracts.

    • Seriously? says

      Pete, did you really just state in this article that Firefighting is not as dangerous in Contra Costa County? Are you kidding me? Did you forget the two (2) Contra Costa Firefighters that were killed in the line of duty in 2007 while trying to rescue a couple from their house on fire in west county? Shame on you! One of the firefighters grew up in the clayton area and graduated from Clayton Valley High. Did you forget about the three firefighters (MOFD) that just got hit and hospitalized after responding to a traffic accident on highway 24? I feel sorry for you that you are so incredibly misinformed about the dangers that firefighters face in all communities across the united states. Your comments make more sense to me after reading your website, that you are a realtor, and obviously haome values in Clayton will suffer with a closed fire station.
      It might be a good time to remove the picture of Fire Station 11 from your website, since it will be soon closed.
      You and a majority of Clayton Folks drank that Kool Aid that BGR, Kris Hunt, and CoCo Times served up about Measure Q. Now reality sets in, and wow the fire stations are going to close. I feel sorry for the residents that they will suffer a decline in service and that lives and property will be lost. Hopefully, the economy will turn around and property values will increase, and closed fire houses might again open some day. The RDA’s including Clayton’s stole money from the Fire District (and Schools) for years, and now you don’t like what you sow? I guess that developer welfare trumps public safety.

    • TaxOutFool says

      Seriously? You are correct that developer welfare trumps public safety. This would not be a Co Co/Kris Hunt tax issue or BGR cool aid issue. This is a Board of Supervisors cool aid issue served by the 1230 store. As far as dangerous jobs go, god bless all of those who lose their lives on the job, especially teachers. The revenue is not the problem, the spending is the problem. Very similar to our 16 Trillion dollars in debt the president has put us in. God help us all if the financial structure collapses. All the fire, police, and other public services will collapse with it. Our leaders need to get their heads straight as we all approach social collapse due to failed leadership in this county and country.

  5. Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette says

    I ran into 3 friendly firefighters on(closed) Mountain View Drive. I noticed their truck was #16. I asked what they would do when their station closes? They said Station #16 is already closed, due to mold. They work out of station #15. The only people who noticed Station #16′s closure, is the corrupt liberal media.

  6. Wendy Lack says

    “ConFire, under the watchful do-nothingness of the County Supervisors, has spent its entire reserve over the past 5-yrs without addressing its burgeoning costs and structural deficits.”

    BGR: You’re right.

    Since Chief Louder was hired ~2.5 years ago, and the spending of reserves started before his arrival, he is not to blame for 100% of the District’s financial woes. He has simply been taking direction.

    The source of the District’s problem is the county sups. Look no further for the culprit. The Chief is simply the convenient whipping boy du jour.

    Shame on the Contra Costa Times editorial board for getting diverted from the root cause of the District’s problems.

    County sups need look no further than the mirror.

    Residents will have an opportunity to change the picture in 2014, when Gioia and Mitchoff face voters.

    • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette says

      My wife was reading the CC Times and said “There’s one honest woman”. It turned out to be Wendy Lack.

  7. Friend of H to C says

    Dave, TaxedOutFool, you’ve only touched on the tip of the IceBerg. What ConFire has/is getting away with should be illegal and punishable with jail time.

  8. Dave Johnson says

    Nice story today in Contra Costa Times – by Dan Borenstein – that documents bloated fire fighter pay and these gargantuan pensions they get after they retire from their short careers . According to Boresnstein, – Firefighters – after they retire – actually retire at a higher rate than they make when they are working! Yes, these are dangerous jobs, I know, but this wasn’t the way things have been done historically. When you retire from your job you don’t normally get more” pay” than you were getting when you working, this is just ludicrous. It’s also equally ludicrous that fire fighters would be getting $100,00 a year pensions, no public worker – anywhere – ought to be getting six figures in retirement. A “fair” pension – fair to the taxpayers – should be more more than 4,000 a month – tops, for anybody, and that includes managers. When you retire you get less money, that’s the way things work – or used to work in the old days. It’s not good for us – as a society – to be paying people a $100,000 a year to lay around and do nothing. These bloated pensions and the equally bloated wages have reached the point where you no longer have the money to keep fire stations open, or cops on the street. So I applaud bill Gram Reefer, Dan Borenstein, and other watchdogs who are reporting on this ongoing pension scandal in Contra Costa County. It’s pretty obvious little or no real negotiation has been going on over wages and pensions for firefighters, the politicians have been laying down and giving them everything they want, which apparently is a “full wage” when they retire.

    • TaxOutFool says

      Dave,
      There is another perk that is not talked about that adds to the extravagance of fire pensions unknown to many. A Fireman can assign his/her pension to their children or spouse. The spouse option has been around awhile and the pension earner normally would take less while alive then the assignee would continue the pension for the remainder of their lives.
      The spouse option at least puts prospective to the pension, but a sibling? If a pension is passed to a sibling when the child is young, they will receive pension money from the time they turn eighteen for the rest of their lives. A child’s assignment of pension could be collected for sixty seventy or more years. There is no way the pension system could predict this type burden to the plan, yet the unions influence on our Board of Supervisors seems unchallenged . It is just a matter of time when pension systems goes bust unless addressed with serious reform today.

  9. says

    @ Richard the anonymous coward –

    Here is another dose of realityland for you from a neutral source that pegs state and local hidden debt at $7.3 Trillion. The reality is that a good chunk of this is dues to bad budgeting like deficit spending by fire districts and state governments, and pension liabilities.

    Please scroll down toward the end where it states..

    With regards to pension liabilities, the first step is to end the denial. The second is to freeze defined benefit pensions, amortize the true unfunded liability, and shift to defined contribution, cash balance or hybrid plans.

    Even if politicians take these decisive and drastic steps now, it will be 50 years before this crisis ends.

    If they fail to act decisively now, cities, towns and counties will go bankrupt, and states could fall beyond a fiscal event horizon into perpetual debt.

  10. Richard says

    BGR,
    You seem like a smart guy(even though I pretty much disagree with everything that you say). How is it that you don’t get(or just choose to ignore)the facts regarding pensions and salaries at ConFire. The govorner has addressed pension reform. There nothing more that the county can do about this. You seem to think that the chief/county can just unilaterally change this. They can’t. DONE. ConFire personnel have taken 10% and have seen ZERO raises since ’06. The firefghters are not gonna work for free, sorry. And this ridicuous notion of reserves or vlunteers in a urban setting is flat out ot gonn work. DONE. The chief, by closing 4 stations, has essentially elminated overtime. No more 150k/year firefighters that you guys think are th blame for all of this. DONE. The fire district is now “living within it’s means” as you guys requested. Bu-by 4 stations. Hello increased response times, insurance rates, and poor emergency outcomes. Way to think this through. Hey, but the mnority “won”! Bravo!

    • says

      “The Governor has addressed pension reform” Yeah, but contra costa workers are fighting in court to maintain pension spiking. Talk about realities.

      You say there is nothing to be done. Well, in realityland, there is. The district does not have the cash to get to June 2013. The best alternative is Bankruptcy, Receivorship, Dissolution, and, only then, restructuring new Fire District based on new service delivery model, probably higher pay with defined contribution pensions as 401Ks and Social Security, and probably with some buy out for existing employees, and refinancing of existing pot of pensions.

      “Firemen aren’t going to work for free” In many communities across the country, they do. If the pay isn’t good enough for you then quit and get a job somewhere else instead of assuming the world, i.e. contra costa taxpayers, owe you a living.

      Go ahead. Walk your self-righteous, self-important, talk for once. I bet 1,000 applicants would happily line up for your job in CoCo County at a lower rate with defined contribution and social security as pension benefits.

      Please, own your words for once.

    • TaxOutFool says

      Richard,
      The fire district is now “living within it’s means” as you guys requested. ???

      I wish. The Fire District is not even close to living within its means. I agree with you that volunteers will not solve the problem but they can help just like they do at the Sheriff’s Office and many other public service areas.

      What will the District do come June 2013 when again it runs out of funds? What will the District do when the pension account needs some of the funds that the county and district have failed to keep up with? You can only refinance the pension debt so many times until we have no Fire Services, just pension payments with Fire Service dollars. Who says that anyone is entitled to a raise in any trade ever?

      Get a grip Richard, you sound like the proverbial person with a credit card thinking the plastic takes care of itself or the person with the checkbook saying “there still must be money in my account because I still have checks”.

      To add insult to injury, the Union is suing so it can continue to pad/spike/manipulate pension pay outs when the original contributions were never provided for it in contribution payments. This is just immoral and blatant.

      The comment about Bankruptcy sounds good except Con Fire is a dependant district; therefore it alone cannot file bankruptcy. What can happen if our Board of Supervisors continues to avoid the issue with Con Fire is bankrupt the entire county. We have seen this in action with Southern California, Stockton, San Jose, Vallejo and more to come. They are changing by necessity not choice. We have the choice before it’s too late. Are you in or out Richard? Are you demanding to take by your union rights or are you willing to give to save the ship from utter doom?

      It is time for serious reorganization of Fire Services in the entire region. I wonder what area will be the first to lead the way back to solvency while the others just do nothing, crash and burn.

  11. R.P. says

    Neither Chief Louder nor Mr. Wells has the courage to stand up to their own union and do what’s right for the community. The contract language they are defending is indefensable. It really represent what amounts to a pale without a bottom that tax dollars flow through without the slightest amont of friction/ service/bang for the tax buck.

  12. Kris Hunt, Executive Director says

    Here is what Vince Wells of the firefighters union wrote on the fFcebook about the chief’s suggestions for saving money and helping preserve services: “Many of the alternatives brought up today would take years to implement if they are even feasible. ”

    Nice attidtude!

    • TaxOutFool says

      The only real feasable solution to the fire district is to dump or replace local 1230 and let the fire fighters keep all that cash they give to the union, follow Gov. J Browns law on pensions, and ride the wave back to solvency.

  13. Wendy Lack says

    The Chief was directed to report back on a long laundry list of items, including whether it’s possible to avert station closures by reducing staffing at each station instead. This was suggested by several speakers.

    It’s unfortunate that the District’s finances have been so severely mismanaged over many years. County Sups failed their fiduciary responsibilities to the public when they authorized, year after year, use of reserves for operations. The current situation was inevitable, under such poor leadership.

    If the District were a business, it would be in receivership and closing its doors. This is the result of poor financial management, approval of unaffordable labor contracts, and an “we’ve always done it this way” organizational culture that doesn’t reward innovation and change.

    It was nothing short of appalling when, at today’s meeting, the fire union president asked the county for a financial bailout — only days after the union filed a lawsuit against the county regarding its implementation of Jerry Brown’s anti-pension-spiking reform legislation. What nerve!

    The many questions unanswered by the Chief’s report should be clarified at the December 11th follow-up meeting. County Sups are expected to make final decisions re station closures at that meeting.

  14. Kris Hunt, Executive Director says

    The lack of information provided by the chief as to why the particular stations had been selected was surprising. I would never have approved anything based on what he brought in.

    He was asked to provide a lot more for next week’s meeting.

  15. Dave Johnson says

    When these fire chiefs or police chiefs retire now they get pensions now that more closely resemble lottery winnings. It’s not uncommon for these retiring fire department or police department managers – who don’t do much more than push papers around the office most of the time – to get a $180,000 or $220,000 annual pension. They get free health care for life too, most of the time. Voters read the papers – these stories about obscene bloated pensions are a staple of the newspapers now, voters are aghast at how massive these pensions have become. Wages are also thru the roof on these jobs too. Voters support paying a fair wage for work done, but you are not supposed to laugh all the way to bank when you are a public employee. This is why voters voted down this proposed tax hike, not because they are not pro-public safety. Everybody knows a firemand and a cop – or went to school with one – and they know these public safety workers all live in Danville and Alamo and Discovery Bay and so forth. You are not supposed to get rich working for the government.

    • Wendy Lack says

      @Dave Johnson: The prospect of raising taxes through various means was a part of today’s 3.5-hour Fire Board meeting. The Chief’s presentation made a point of blaming the 2/3 voter threshold for Measure Q’s failure. And Ms. Piepho mentioned the need for “new revenues” and “recapturing revenues” (a fave phrase she uses) several times at today’s meeting.

      There is no doubt that county sups will be back again asking for tax increases soon. After all, it’s easier to raise taxes that it is to retool operations to boost efficiency — let alone bargain concessions from the fire union to pare back unaffordable work practices.

      The 2/3 voter threshold is the only thing standing between CA voters and huge tax increases. The state legislature is expected to seek to change this soon, by placing the issue before voters (see: http://bit.ly/VlAkbr).