Letter To The Editor
Letter To The Editor
Dear Monterey Park Residents
I am submitting for your consideration the fiscal details and hazards in regard to a transfer of fire services to the County. To begin with, a little background. Measure J was adopted by the voters of Monterey Park in l999 by an 86% margin. Its intention was to always maintain our fire stations, our firefighters and our response time at a level equal to or better than our traditional standard.
About a year ago, the firefighters tried to dilute Measure J. They were unsuccessful. Undaunted, they now ignore the intention of Measure J, claiming that all that is needed is an equivalent proposal. The firefighters have paid for a County Survey/ Study. The County has concluded that about one million dollars of cost can be eliminated by reducing our fire department shifts from 17 personnel down to 12. We have three shifts, therefore 15 less firefighters on duty every day within our city. Any routine deficit would be covered from beyond our city boundaries. A County proposal is likely to also include the mothballing of one or more of our stations.
Now, let’s examine some of the facts and numbers. Our fire department is composed of 51 members. If they were to leave our system, we would have to buy out their benefits, such as vacation time, sick days, etc. The price tag would be somewhat over $20,000 average per person for a total one-time charge of over one million dollars. And there may be other sticker surprises, such as retirement and medical adjustments.
Next, the County proposal would allow for a 5% per year billing increase. That works out to about half a million dollar boost every year, on top of the previous year’s price tag. And we can expect no mercy in this area.
The city budget shows the revenue that our fire/ambulance department generates, which happens to be a little over $l,500,000. Without a fire department all these income activities simply do not happen. Ah, but the firefighters claim they can fix this by outsourcing these categories and back filling 2/3 of this money. Even if this materializes we would be yielding $500,000 to begin with. But the real big question is: How long can such an arrangement endure? Think about this. We will be an idle third party and with no effort at all on our part, a private for-profit ambulance company is going to be remitting to us one million dollars a year henceforth. Does this sound like a bet-worthy expectation? And if the day comes when this agreement discontinues, we will have no Plan B, there will be no going back, furthermore we will be stuck with a perpetual million dollar vacancy in our budget forevermore.
In conclusion, the firefighters’ declarations of tremendous savings are erroneous, and just like Snow White, a big fairy tale. A fiscally responsible remedy would be to find that the County fire proposal is out of conformity with Measure J and thereby bring a halt to this episode.
Francisco Alonso, Former Monterey Park Mayor