OPTIONS OUTLINED AT TWENTYNINE PALMS FIRE DEPARTMENT WORKSHOP MEETING

OPTIONS OUTLINED AT TWENTYNINE PALMS FIRE DEPARTMENT WORKSHOP MEETING

What was billed as a special workshop meeting to “Determine the future of the Twentynine Palms Fire Department” was held Saturday at Twentynine Palms Water District offices. Not counting people not related to the district, only five residents attended. Among the 20 people there were Twentynine Palms Mayor Dan Mintz and City Manager Joe Guzetta. The Water District taxes each parcel $80 a year; those funds, according to the Fire Department, are not enough to sustain it due to increasing expenses, including replacing aging equipment, and staff pay, health, and retirement costs. They say if nothing is done, the Department will run out of money in about two years. To reduce costs, the Lear Avenue fire station was closed last year and paid staff was drastically reduced. Fire Chief Jim Thompson outlined three options to fund the Fire Department. Option 1, which would reopen the Lear station and bring the Department up to full staff, was to place a parcel tax of an additional $40 a year with a built-in 3 percent a year increase to adjust for inflation. Option 2, which would reopen the Lear station but still have reduced staff, for $32 a year with the 3 percent yearly adjustment. Option 3, which would just keep the Department at its present level, would be $12 a year with the 3 percent kicker. The few residents there commented; one said “Let the City pay for it;” another suggested they raise the tax to $45 a year for four years, a plan that would be more likely to pass, noting that Chief Thompson is paid about 70 percent more than the fire captains. A third suggested that they “Keep hounding the City,” accusing them of “Not providing for the safety of its citizens.” One returned to the podium asking why only property owners have to pay, while all residents benefit. For the record, the City was willing to take over the responsibility for fire safety, contracting the service to the County. The Water District balked when the County said they would have to close the Lear Fire station, taking the responsibility back; shortly after, they closed the Lear station. After a short break, Board members commented, discussing the options, making note of the poor turnout, and need for public education. The Board concluded by voting to bring back all three options for a vote, plus another with a flat rate just to sustain the existing level of service. They also directed staff to get bids to conduct a public education campaign.

4 comments to OPTIONS OUTLINED AT TWENTYNINE PALMS FIRE DEPARTMENT WORKSHOP MEETING

  • Steve Spear

    This is a some what slanted story.

    Of course the city was willing to have the county take over fire protection but even they do not understand what would happen if they did let that happen.

    I offer the only example we have and that is with the Sheriff’s Department, a county organization, that raises it cost for the contract by about 3 to 5 percent per year. That is exactly what would happen with county fire should we decide to let our own fire department wither on the vine.

    When is someone going to ask the big elephant in the room why we as a city direct 22 percent of our property taxes into costs other than public safety? This city has lived too long on a gambit of funding Park and Recreation as opposed to public safety. The time has come for the city to do what is right and stop the double taxation of the citizens.

    And that is right, double taxes for us that live in 29. We pay our property taxes and we also pay the parcel assessment for fire protection. Those that live in Yucca have no parcel assessment. Their property taxes pay for fire and police and that fire component is about 22 percent of the overall property tax revenue.

    Gary please call me if you wish but the facts need to be presented not city talking points.

    Thanks,

    Steve Spear

  • Gary Daigneault

    Steve,
    Nothing wrong with a civil, politely stated, difference in opinion. That’s why we call it Democracy.

  • Steve Spear

    That would be big 10-4 from me also.

    Thanks for the reply.

    Steve

  • Chancey Chambers

    Thanks for attending the meeting Gary. Please note that the county backtracked on their initial proposal for fire protection in the Twentynine Palms community. Their second proposal offered a lower level of manpower with projections that put them in the red in 1 to 2 years. Presentations to the water board also showed that the district could provide comparable staffing at a lower cost. The board then voted to keep fire services. That said, even if the county took over fire protection with identical staffing, they would still have a diminishing revenue source because of the current tax structure. Unless county is willing to supplement the area with funding beyond the current special tax, which they did not commit to, they would have the same problems the district is now faced with. This is more complicated than just transitioning services from one agency to another. There must be a willingness to solve the underlying problem of revenue sustainability.

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