To the Editor:
As a resident and volunteer firefighter of Mariposa County I now have TOTAL LACK OF TRUST of all our elected officials. The reasons for this are the latest actions now being taken by the board of supervisors concerning the takeover of Mariposa County Fire Department by Cal Fire. Two and a half years ago the volunteers were told several times by officials that this would never happen. On December 5th we were informed that the Cal Fire take over was in the works. Then we recently found out (as reported in the Gazette) that this has been an ongoing discussion for over two years.
We were told back in December that if the responders weren’t in favor of the contract after we reviewed the contract, it wouldn’t happen. We are now told the contract is only between the state of California and the County of Mariposa and has nothing to do with the volunteers. This means again we are not involved in the future of Mariposa County Fire Department.
The majority of responders have voiced their opposition through the Mariposa County Volunteer Firefighter Association and in person at the Board of Supervisors meetings that they are not in favor of this, yet the Board of Supervisors seems hell bent on doing away with an independent fire department while paying the state $958,569.00 this year for three administrative positions and dispatch services. The board also wants to add three modified Amador contract stations to be staffed with two firefighters during non-fire season at a cost of $225,000.00 per station for 5 months. The major question is, WHERE ARE ALL THE FUNDS COMING FROM TO PAY FOR THIS?
I have read the contract and other information which is posted on the board’s web page I find the two page information guide to be like a sales pitch a used car salesman would use. First they show what Cal Fire will bring to the county and what independent chief would bring. They then show all the added so called extras that Cal Fire would give the county, but there isn’t one word that states how much they will cost the county to use.
Page two of this is misleading comparison shows the breakdown of costs for both models. The problem is that they show all costs for the independent model, but not for the Cal Fire model. The wages of the independent model are on the high end and the benefits shown are the total per year cost of all three positions. The position of an independent Captain is not needed and was added by the board of supervisors. WHY, when Mariposa County Fire has two State Fire Marshal certified instructors who are captains and they do it for free. The $107,000 shouldn’t be included in the cost for and independent administration.
Again, this chart is misleading as the base wages for all three Cal Fire positions are not shown, the 89.06% retirement and benefit package is not shown, the workman’s comp annual (13%) is not shown, the Benefits & workman’s comp at 49.14% is not shown, and this did not show the estimated overtime total for two of the positions. These are all figured on the base pay for each position. My question to the board is why didn’t they show, or want to show, this break down? At the April 11th board meeting Supervisor Jones stated that, as a businessman, he knew that the Cal Fire cost included all the benefit packages. If these are included why not show them like they showed the independent model instead of just showing $0 next to each benefit package like the board chose to do with the independent model? This question was never answered by Supervisor Jones.
At the April 11th Board of Supervisors meeting Supervisor Long gave a long talk on how counties our size and demographics have no independent Fire Chief, and even some counties have no local fire departments. This is another half-truth by the board. The city of Dixon, California is smaller in area but has the same population base and they have an independent Fire Chief. The coastal counties of California have fire districts about the size of Mariposa and yet they have either a full or part time Fire Chiefs.
Also at the April 11th Board of Supervisors meeting several other questionable things in the contract were brought up to the Board. One was the possible rental of the fire equipment to outside agencies which could be done by the Cal Fire personnel who have TOTAL CONTROL OVER THE EQUIPMENT. The question is what does the CSA 3 say about this? This wasn’t answered then, but in the information packet received by each board member, it was stated that any income generated by renting the engines could be used to help pay for the Cal Fire contract. Currently, the CSA 3 that was voted on several years ago by the public will be reviewed to find out if those tax dollars were to go ONLY toward paying off the CSA # and maintenance of the engines.
Also the there are NO PROTECTIONS for the responders written into this contract, and as stated by the Cal Fire Chief she and her people operate under Cal Fire policies. Even though she said they would operate under county policies which we responders have never seen as they were rewritten by the current administration. We responders have had ZERO input into any of this during the last two years even when we have requested that we have a representative to be at any discussions about hiring an independent administration or now the Cal Fire administration. We were informed that the county officials speak for the department and not the responders or their association.
I am one of many first responders who serve the citizens of Mariposa, not because of an oath taken or a paycheck, but to render aid in a time of need, and we are aware that all paid emergency personnel do serve for the same reasons. I was taught as young person that my word is my bond of trust. I and all my fellow responders have kept our bond of trust to you the citizens of Mariposa and to the officials of Mariposa County by our actions and deeds. We now feel the elected officials of Mariposa County have broken that bond of trust to all the responders of Mariposa County Fire Department and citizens by backing the Cal Fire takeover of Mariposa County Fire Department that isn’t needed or wanted by the members of YOUR Mariposa County Fire Department.
A Concerned Resident, Taxpayer, and Voter