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Now that we have your attention…. Let’s figure this out!

By   /   December 2, 2012  /   23 Comments

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We now have consensus that we need to save our Fire Department. The argument now is how we are going to do that. I am going to close down the other threads on this subject and suggest that this post is a good start for finding Comity and some sort of rough agreement on how we save that Fire Department.

Lets stop with the personal attacks for a couple of days. We are so very close to being able to present to the Council a unified front.

NO kidding folks this is the first time in years where almost to the man and woman we are in agreement that the Fire Department needs to be saved and kept under local control. How often in your memory has this happened? We can not lose this moment of unity.

Let the posting begin.

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Dan OBrien

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Cactus Thorns has been online in one form or the other since 2001. What started as a personal blog documenting the corruption and lack of Due Process of the 29 Palms Community Development Department has turned into over these many years into a hugely popular Independent Alternative News Media Outlet. We have partnered with other media including The Desert Star Weekly, Joshua Tree Star, other blogs, indie media and an incredible staff of volunteer Reporters, Commentators and Opinion Makers to create one of the most read, honest and dependable alternative to the Local traditional Media services in the country. Thanks to you the reader we are in the 5% of most read sites in the World.

23 Comments

  1. LINDAG LINDAG says:

    We had a long talk this morning in La Quinta about this same subject of preserving our needed public safety in view of the fact that we have over $450,000,000 of RDA debt to pay off in the future thanks to RSG leading us to this financial cliff. We decided the best way to save money is to SHUT DOWN CITY HALL AND SAVE OURSELVES MILLIONS OF DOLLARS! We figured that between our Council costs, Frank's cost (CM) and the City Attorney costs, we would save over a million a year just there! Get rid of the dead wood and you can afford the needed programs. How did our little bergs get so mired in costs and long term debt? Nobody was paying attention and now we are paying the price. Bankruptcy here we come!

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  2. Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

    ELECTIONS CODE
    SECTION 9200-9226

    9200. Ordinances may be enacted by and for any incorporated city
    pursuant to this article.

    9201. Any proposed ordinance may be submitted to the legislative
    body of the city by a petition filed with the elections official of
    the legislative body, in the manner hereinafter prescribed, after
    being signed by not less than the number of voters specified in this
    article. The petition may be in separate sections, providing that the
    petition complies with this article. The first page of each section
    shall contain the title of the petition and the text of the measure.
    The petition sections shall be designated in the manner set forth in
    Section 9020.

    9202. (a) Before circulating an initiative petition in any city,
    the proponents of the matter shall file with the elections official a
    notice of intention to do so, which shall be accompanied by the
    written text of the initiative and may be accompanied by a written
    statement not in excess of 500 words, setting forth the reasons for
    the proposed petition. The notice shall be signed by at least one,
    but not more than three, proponents and shall be in substantially the
    following form:

    Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition

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  3. Steve_In_29 Steve_In_29 says:

    It really isn't rocket science as to how to keep the Fire Dept local. NOW would be a good time for two of the CURRENTLY serving Council members to make a motion to fund the Dept through the end of the year and revisit how the City can help the Dept stay under local control. This would be a relatively painless way for Council to save some face over this mess.

    The basic plan would be that the Water District keeps the Fire Dept under its cognizance with current fire funding source. Then as a stopgap the City covers the shortfall in the current FD budget from the City's reserve. For the long term the City enters into an agreement (JPA?) with the Water District to continue to provide the required funds. This would of course have to give some oversight of Dept costs to the City to prevent the District from going crazy with taxpayer funds.

    As to where could the City find the money for continued funding of Fire Dept, I personally think such funding can be done without having to increase the Fire tax or cut into City services by much. Simply cut the pay of a couple of top City positions, spend less on art crap and spend a lot less on an out of town law firm that has no vested interest in the City beyond a paycheck.

    Why do we have a City Manager getting $200+K which is more money then a lot of State Govenors make??? Why is there at least one other position that makes $100K? Both of these inflated salaries are in a town where the median income is only $32K. Cut both in half and there is $150K towards the Fire Dept while still providing a salary high enough to attract qualified applicants in our low cost of living area.

    If there is a choice between art projects that benefit only the artist and a few builders or a Fire Dept that provides quality service to the entire community, the Fire Dept should win hands down every time. If people feel strongly enough that the City needs art, then they can step up and donate their time/money/services to provide it instead of treating the City coffers as their personal patron.

    RSG has done nothing to help this community and has given our elected leaders some very shaky advice as to how things work in Sacramento. Do they really think this town will prevail against the State or that we can really afford to spend upwards of a half-million dollars in the fight. RSG is simply lining their pockets with every "they-just-don't-understand-our-position" they get the Council members to bite off on, as they get paid win-or-lose. If RSG REALLY believed what they tell the Council they would be working on a contingency basis and not asking for cash up front.

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  4. @ Steve Spear. I guess I was unclear.

    I don't believe in a total transfer to the city. Rather I believe the county ought to partner with the city or be involved in a JPA. The important thing is for the County to help fund a TPFD.

    The water district has their own unique problems in terms of finances. This may not be popular with some of the plans explored in here, but the water district has done enough and they want to divest themselves of the fire department.

    I understand where they are coming from. They have done enough.

    Why should the water department be pressed to pay for fire services which is the county and the city's responsibility. The only reason for the water department to join a partnership or a JPA is to use their money.

    That doesn't appear to be fair to me.

    I agree with the Desert Sun that elected officials should see Steven Spielberg's 'Lincoln' on how to compromise and accomplish the impossible.

    All the city Councilmen should see this important film. It will help them in moving forward, solving funding problems for the fire department and initiating trust and show all parties the way to the art of compromise.

    The article may be online; it was published Tuesday, November 27.

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    • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

      Hi Branson,

      I don't think we will ever see the county offer to pay for fire protection services provided by TPFD.

      The County has no interest in being part of a JPA should the city and the water district decide to form one.

      I am not following you on the money aspect of your comments. Water money, that money we pay to have water services are separate from the parcel tax of $80.00 per parcel which is the money that is used to fund the fire department.

      Water money and fire money can never be mixed - never.

      As for the water district wanting to divest themselves of the fire department that is a position, in my opinion, that they were forced into pursuing when measure "H" failed.

      Based on their action at the last water board meeting to delay transfer of the fire services to the county I think they are saying we can wait and try to save our fire department provided the city comes to the table with a serious proposal.

      That is where we are right now I think. We need to pressure the city to offer proposal of their own.

      You, Dan, Larry, Steve, myself have offered various ideas on this but where is the city? I have no idea what they are thinking but I will be asking on December 11th and I hope that the entire council chamber is overflowing with people who are there to provide input on this matter and not just there to eat birthday cake.

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      • Steve_In_29 Steve_In_29 says:

        I agree that there is no way County will pony up any money towards the TPFD. Their only play in this was to pick up the ball after the City dropped it.

        Based on the available funding I don't believe County was too happy with the idea of providing fire protection at all as they were fixing to become the bad guy in this.

        Because despite doing the honorable thing and stepping up to the plate after the City didn't, the only options County had were to either provide inadequate protection or to raise taxes. Neither of which would garner any kudos from the public.

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      • That clears a few things up. Thanks Steve.

        Lets look at this senairo for example: Say the city and TPWD unite with a partnership or joint JPA and tell the county -- we are not going to expand any fire protection to Desert Heights (or Wonder Valley). Seems the TPWD would be under a new set of rules with a partnership or JPA entiy.

        Seems to me the county is bound to not leave these two unincorporated areas, especially DH, go adrive into an open sea to fend for themselves.

        Would it not be a cost savings for the county to throw some money into city-TPWD pot for those few calls for DH. In that way the county would SAVE money -- as opposed to having to maintain a station or services to DH.

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        • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

          Hi Branson,

          I believe the 1.2 million the Water District collects right now in the $80.00 parcel assessment includes the money that Desert Heights and a small part of Wonder Valley pay.

          Basically the JPA would be a two agency organization that includes the city limits of 29 Palms as well as the boundary of the water district which includes Desert Heights and that small portion of Wonder Valley. So Desert Heights would not be left on their own they would be part of the fire protection area of the proposed "29 Palms Joint Powers Agency Fire Protection Area". I made that name up of course.

          To be honest with you I see no advantage to have the county to even get involved. We already know that they are very, very expensive.

          I am working on calculating some numbers for Ken who lives in Wonder Valley to see what he is actually paying for County Fire protection services.

          The number he provided earlier is in ADDITION to what he is paying via his property taxes. Ken's real cost in his tax dollars is very much more than the $32.62 a year but I need some information from him in order to figure out the real cost.

          I am certain that we need to steer clear of County Fire. Their last proposal, as you know, was 1/2 the Fire Department for the same cost and that is just not an acceptable alternative at the present time. Plus County Fire has said that they will only be in the black for the first year after that I see red again and so did Chief Hartwig.

          Just my thoughts.

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        • Cora Heiser Cora Heiser says:

          It is my understanding that lafco has to approve whatever we decide, I am unclear if they have to approve a JPA, but if 29 Palms wanted to take over fire,without a JPA, they cannot leave Desert Heights adrift. The county nor calfire have to take them. So this may put a hitch in some of the decision making. My information comes from LAFCO.

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          • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

            Thanks Cora,

            It would seem that if the city took over the Fire Department that we would end up with a one station fire department because the Lear Station is not within the city limits.

            Now we can staff a one station fire department a whole bunch cheaper than the county can but that is not the question at hand in my opinion.

            Our city due to its rather large area needs two stations.

            The county will not man that Lear station should the city decide to take over the responsibility of fire protection for its citizens.

            There is a county station in Desert Heights, Station 44 on Winters Road, that has not been staffed for years even the county online site lists it as not being staffed.

            I see no reason why LAFCO would not support a JPA if it is properly set up considering the fact that two stations are better than one for the citizens of 29 Palms and Desert Heights.

            But these are the kinds of issues that need to be addressed by the council, in public, and done in detail.

            The present city position of doing nothing is to be honest with you unacceptable.

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            • Lear is a huge advantage to 29 since it is only a half minute away from the Western side of 29 (paved Two Mile Rd). Most Lear Station calls are for the city. When the TPFD is at the Eastside of town, say Hanson Track, it's a stright shot for Lear firefighters from Indian Tr to the city or rural portion of town. Like wise with Two Mile Rd.

              A perfect marrage and a proven symbotic relationship.

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          • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

            Hi Cora,

            Things have expanded since you posted - LAFCO is out of the equation when it comes to a JPA.

            City staff will need to find another reason as to why they failed to present the JPA option back in April or even last month when we had that presentation by Chief Hartwig.

            Again - wow!

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  5. Could anyone explain why I pay fire tax on my property in Wonder Valley. Its on my property tax bill as *FIRE PROTECTION ZONE FP-4
    (909) 387 - 5947

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    • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

      First you live in the county, so this has nothing to do with what we are talking about here. The tax you pay was voted on and approved by the voters.

      What they were promised was two full time fire fighters.... what they got was two full time trainees.... Neither one can drive a fire truck.

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    • Govt Ethics Govt Ethics says:

      Ken
      Here is some info straight from the County Fire Budget

      "Service Zone FP-4 Wonder Valley was originally approved by the Board of Supervisors in August 1972 (originally CSA 70 M). Service Zone FP-4 provides fire protection services to the community of Wonder Valley and is funded by a voter approved special tax of $30 per parcel which was approved in June 2005 with an annual 1.5% cost of living increase. The current special tax rate is $32.32 per parcel. Parcel count for 2012-13 is 4,665 and special tax revenue budgeted for 2012-13 is $136,651. Services are provided through Fire Station
      45."

      http://www.sbcfire.org/pdf/1213Recommended-FIRE-ONLY.pdf

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      • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

        Hi "Govt Ethics" - good information.

        Do you think that is all that Wonder Valley pays into County Fire is $136,651?

        I am waiting for Ken to reply but I am certain that in some areas of the county up to 30 percent of the individual General Tax Levy on a person's property is sent to County Fire.

        So, if a house in Wonder Valley was assessed at a value of $50,000.00 the General tax levy would be 1% or $500.00 and up to 30% of that $500.00 would go to County Fire - about $150.00 PLUS the $32.32 or $32.62 as Ken indicates which is a cost of lets say $182.00 per parcel.

        If that is a reasonable average then County Fire is collecting about $849,030.00 a year to provide Fire Protection in Wonder Valley given the parcel count and an average value of $50,000.00 for Wonder valley homes - I know that they are worth more than that.

        Which is about right since the Wonder Valley Station is manned as follows according to the County Fire website:

        "The station is staffed with one paid officer augmented by Paid-Call firefighters living in the community."

        Again about twice to two and half times more expensive than the 29 Palms Fire Department for the same level of service. I am thinking it could be more than that almost along the lines of what Chief Hartwig presented to us in November - about 1.1 or 1.2 million would be my guess.

        However, that is all speculation at this point until I get the numbers from Ken.

        Thanks for jumping in.

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  6. Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

    I believe it is the charge that you pay to have San Bernardino County Fire provide fire protection to your area which is called FP-4.

    If you do not mind how much is that service fee a year?

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    • Its $32.62 per year

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      • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

        Hi Ken,

        I am doing some more research on what County Fire actually costs you a year for living in Wonder Valley.

        I will need to get some information from you in order to figure it out?

        Do you mind answering some personal questions, like for starters, what is your annual tax bill each year? The total amount of the GENERAL TAX LEVY only. That is usually the number that is listed first under TAX DISTRIBUTION.

        And up in the left hand corner of your tax bill you will see a line that is in blue. In box 3 you will see an entry for "Tax Rate Area" - it should be a seven digit number 0094054, 0094055, or 0094095 are usually found in Wonder Valley - what number is on your bill?

        With that information I can figure out what County Fire is costing you each year.

        Let me know.

        Thanks for helping us out.

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        • General tax levy $450.00 Tax rate area 000094055 My tax bill is $645.00 for the year. This bill also includes CSA 70 which is used to maintain our private dirt roads and this is why the vehicle code does not apply :) There was a time at a Wonder Valley Fire meeting when outside sources were using, borrowing, controlling our equipment but I don't remember much about it. Dano may remember.

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  7. Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

    Thanks Ken - I will get to work on the numbers. $450.00 a year in tax rate area 0094055.

    Thanks.

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  8. Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

    Hi Ken,

    You pay, from what I can figure out, in the area of $160.00 a year or fire protection from County Fire.

    You have your FP-4 Special Tax of $32.62.

    You then have two items that are generated from two percentages to fund County Fire. One percentage is 2.44% to fund County Fire Administration and the other of 26.92 % for County Fire service. Those percentages are based off of your General tax levy of $450.00 which yields a total of $132.12.

    Add the Special Tax of $32.52 to the $132.62 and we have $164.74.

    That comes out to twice the cost of our 29 palms Fire Department that provided twice the level of service for 8 years on $80.00 a year parcel assessment.

    So, again, we have the mystery money for the city of 29 Palms residents. We are paying $80.00 a year on our tax bill for fire protection you are paying $164.74. Since none of our general tax levy provides a dime to the 29 Palms Fire Department the city has been able to keep the difference of $84.74 in your case, if you lived in 29 Palms, for 8 years.

    The key point that is going to be hard to get the citizens to understand is that everybody in California, except for 29 Palms residents, have a portion of their general tax levy assigned to fund their respective fire protection agencies.

    We do not and the city has been using that money for years to add to their general fund.

    That is not wrong because that is how the system was set up 25 years ago. But right now we need to realize that the city should not be able to keep the entire percentage that it recieves of your property tax assessment.

    It is time for the city to augment in the funding of the fire department by keeping lets say 90% of that tax assessment and then augmenting in the funding our fire department with the other 10%.

    Thanks for your help Ken I think it will help in explaining the special problem that the city of 29 Palms has in regards to how the city of 29 Palms pays nothing for fire protection services for its citizens.

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