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Consultant Delivers 2nd Draft of Report re: SMFD to City Council

Monday, July 26, 2004


City Consultant Delivers 2nd Draft Report re: Fire Dept.  At Monday's council meeting, the City's consultant Citygate delivered its 2nd draft of a report analyzing the City's Fire Department to the City Council and a host of volunteer firefighters who had turned out to express their interest in the future of their department.  The report revealed that our City's response times are comparable to area cities that have full time paid departments.  The fire department was given high marks in many areas, though the report noted that record-keeping to make analysis was below par, and that there is some concern that there may be a desire among the community to branch beyond EMT (Emergency Medical Technican) service to ALS (paramedic) service.  The report, a copy of which can be found here, made sixteen  recommendations for improvement, many of which centered on the organizational structure and relationship between the Department and City Government, including the recommendation to give the City Manager authority over the Fire Chief, and to make the Fire Chief a part-time paid position.  Council member Maurer  noted that there is a high percentage of Departments which, shortly after going to a paid Chief structure, convert to paid Departments.  Mayor Rob Stockly, appearing to want to head off concern on the part of residents and firefighters, opened discussion by stating that there was no desire to turn the Dept. into a paid Dept., that we are proud of our volunteers, and hope to keep the Department volunteers for many years to come, and that this report was a first step in ensuring the City's ability to adequately fund the Department and to take the steps necessary to ensure a department which addresses the needs of the community as we move into the future.  Councilmember George Maurer suggested that the Council should stop beating around the bush, and acknowledge that the real issue here is "do we want the Fire Chief to answer to the City Manager."  Council member John Buchanan acknowledged that while that was a hot button issue, it was just one issue, and he was attempting to get a grasp on the entire report and all of its issues.  Council member Enid Joffe stated that the report should not be taken as one issue, that there were sixteen recommendations made, and that the issue mentioned by Council member Maurer was just one of those issues.    Chief Roger Lowe, in his statement in response to the Citygate report, stated that of the sixteen recommendations, six of them had already been implemented, four were in process.  He noted that the Department did take exception with three of the recommendations, but did not want to comment on those items until he had seen the final report, which is scheduled to be reported to the council at their Sept. 13 meeting.  The City Council will not be meeting in August.  Local resident Salvatore Tesoro read a prepared statement to the Council, noting that he had read the report and considered it to be inadequate, and that it appeared to be politically motivated.  A complete text of Mr. Tesoro's statement can be found on our Letters to the E-ditor's page.  Former Mayor Bart Doyle than spoke, and noted that he strongly took exception to Mr. Tesoro's statement, noting that there had been budgeting issues with the Fire Dept., the only City Dept. which is not under the authority of the City Manager, and that the City had requested the report as a way to determine how best to deal with ensuring that it didn't find itself unable to deal financially with the need for a new engine when needed, and to find out if there were ways to improve the Dept. to insure its ability to best serve the community in years to come.  He noted that as the study progressed, these structural and organizational issues came to the fore.  Mayor Stockly ended the discussion by again assuring the TV viewing residents and the fireman in attendance that the City has no desire to eliminate its volunteer Fire Department.  The day after the meeting, City Manager Tamara Gates and Fire Chief Roger Lowe issued a joint press release, which can be found below the following photos.  Click on a photo to enlarge it.


Title slide of presentation

A recent workshop of volunteer FD chiefs resulted in a report used by Citygate in its analysis


Ditto, ditto

Some of the 16 recommendations made by Citygate re: SMFD


Citygate's analysis of the next steps

SMFD Chief Lowe speaks to Council after report

There was a large turnout of firefighters, here seen chatting during recess in meeting


Ditto, the sequel


Joint Press Release from City Manager Tamara Gates and Fire Chief Roger Lowe  FIRE STUDY PRESENTED TO CITY COUNCIL  At the July 27 (sic) City Council meeting, the draft fire study was presented to the City Council by the consultants Citygate Associates, Inc.  The study shows that the Fire Department provides quality services to this community.  The report also shows the value of the 83 years of service and it points to the need to plan for the future in order to ensure that the high quality of service continues.  The report makes 16 different recommendations ranging from organizational structure and governance issues to levels of service to be considered.  The consultants are in the process of preparing additional information regarding the costs of each of their recommendations and suggested funding options.  The City Council is scheduled to review the final report at the September 13 City Council meeting.  Mayor Stockly said, “The volunteer Fire Department is a essential part of this community that helps define the character of Sierra Madre.  It is important that we take the necessary steps to ensure that we have the structure, the defined level of service, and adequate funding in place so that our volunteers can continue to provide excellent service to our town for many years to come.  Once we receive the additional financial information from Citygate, we can begin the process to review these recommendations including the public, volunteer firefighters, Fire Department administration, and City Administration.”  Fire Chief Lowe said, “The Sierra Madre Fire Department has reviewed the draft report issued by Citygate and sees the report as a positive affirmation of the services the fire department provides to the City.  The study confirms there is no downside with either our delivery of services or the quality of services.  Our Volunteer Fire Department is a valuable asset to our community and provides a service which would be difficult for Sierra Madre to afford, especially in these budget conscious times.”  Chief Lowe also stated that Fire Department administration is looking forward to discussing these recommendations as part of the public process with the City Council and the community.  City Manager Gates said she "values the dedication, commitment, and countless hours that the volunteer fire fighters give to this community everyday."  She said that "this is the very thing that we want to preserve for years to come."  City Manager Gates further stated that she is "looking forward to working with the community, the fire department, fire administration, and the Council to develop a plan for the future that ensures continued high quality service with a funding mechanism that meets those needs.”

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