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“Reasonable voices need to be heard” says Jay Corbin

By   /   January 10, 2013  /   2 Comments

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Facebook January 9, 2013 at Jay Corbin’s page: “The Twentynine Palms city council will have a special meeting Monday Jan 14th @ 6pm to discuss the financial crisis at the 29 Palms Fire Dept. They are currently spending about $300,000 more than they take in; their expenses are about 25% more than their income. Their reserves are nearly depleted; at their current pace they will be insolvent soon. They also owe a stack of cash to PERS, their retirement system. To date the water board has not adopted a solution and are instead assigning either blame or responsibility to the City of Twentynine Palms. As your councilmember I have to call upon the many reasonable people in our community to learn the facts and speak up. Reasonable voices need to be heard.”

Jay is commended for trying to increase community awareness of our Fire Department problem.

However, as some of us suspected when it was learned that city manager Warne and Jay Corbin met with water board director Chambers there was going to be fly in the stew. The stew got more and more unpalatable as I and others asked to see the presentation that Mr. Warne and Jay Corbin presented to director Chambers but were denied access because that presentation was in “draft” form and fell under an exemption as per the California Public Records Act according to the members of the city staff. That is still being debated but that is another subject for another time.

Jay, you have the information right but your interpretation of the information is… well… in error.

You were at the same meeting that I was at of our water district where Chief Thompson clearly showed how measure “I”, the 2005 funding measure, actually would work. So lets take you facebook statement and analyze it in regards to the facts not what Mr. Warne wants it to be.

“They are currently spending about $300,000 more than they take in; their expenses are about 25% more than their income.”, correct. What you are not saying is that when the measure first passed the fire department was spending $300,000.00 less than what they were taking in. It was designed that way and the voters fully well knew that there would be a surplus of cash at the beginning which would go into the fund balance. As time went by, 4 years, to be exact, expenditures and income would be balanced and during the last 4 years of the measure that “saved” fund balance would be used to fund the fire department at the same level that we had in 2005. That being two fire stations and six fire fighters. In other words your snapshot picture of revenue and expenditures over the last 4 to 5 years paints an inaccurate picture and does nothing in assisting in solving our pending public safety crisis.

“Their reserves are nearly depleted; at their current pace they will be insolvent soon. They also owe a stack of cash to PERS, their retirement system.”, mostly correct but not totally correct. Yes as explained above the “reserves” or fund balance are almost depleted but as I pointed out that was by design and had to be that way when you consider that the funding mechanism of the parcel tax is a flat rate revenue source as compared to the ever increasing revenue source of the city. True, the fire department will be insolvent soon – again exactly what the voters voted for back in 2005. As for the PERS retirement. Those astronomical numbers are applicable only if the water district ceases to manage the Fire Department. All the current PERS payments are in fact current and paid just as the PERS payments of the city are current and paid.

I think Kelly O’Sullivan hit the nail on the head on your facebook page, “I know it’s not about blame, but blaming and finger-pointing has been going on for months, most of it making the city out to be a big bunch of you-know-whats. You absolutely all need to sit down and analyze things line by line if necessary, Jay, and come at it from a place of understanding and a willingness to go forward. That’s what I was trying to say.”

Or as I have said it, it is time for the city to step up to the plate and if that means funding our Fire Department in some manner then so be it. The Fire Department has not been mismanaged at all and no amount of finger pointing or misrepresentation of numbers will help us solve this very crucial public safety crisis.

We need innovative thinkers and leaders out there and you are fully capable of being that leader.

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  • Published: 2 years ago on January 10, 2013
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  • Last Modified: January 12, 2013 @ 9:46 am
  • Filed Under: News

About the author

Steve Spear

Former 29 Palms City Council member from 2002 through 2010. Graduate of Villanova University with a BA majoring in criminal justice. Served in the United States Marine Corps from 1977 through 1990 attaining the rank of Major in the Marine Corps Reserves.

2 Comments

  1. Chancey Chambers Chancey Chambers says:

    I was indeed invited to a meeting with Council member Corbin and City Manager Warne. Technically, I was not there representing the district because it was not officially approved by the board. I was there as a private citizen. I am always happy to sit down and review information and provide my input if I feel it is appropriate. I would do the same for any reasonable citizen of the community. As a courtesy, I did notify staff and my board president that I was invited to this meeting. That said, I was not aware that this information was going to be denied to other citizens. Furthermore, I was shocked to discover that it was shown to me before all the members of the city council had a chance to review it. If the city was willing to show the presentation to me as a citizen, I feel that all citizens should have the right to view it.

    Given the controversy around the presentation, I think it is appropriate that I provide a brief synopsis of what I remember viewing to the best of my abilities. I will save my opinions about the presentation until the City of Twentynine Palms reveals the final version. The presentation compared the 29 Fire’s expenditures to the consumer price index from 2004 to the present. I recall a major emphasis on operations. The presentation also compared the Water District’s administrative costs for 29 Fire using the same criteria. Included in the presentation were slides showing revenues that were decreasing or no longer available to the City. I believe there was also a comparison between the City’s general tax and 29 Fire’s Special tax.

    I also agree with Kelly. We can point fingers and shift blame until the end of time and it will not solve the core problem. The Twentynine Palms community does not have a sustainable revenue source for fire protection. Everything else is a symptom! We need to come together as a community and reach a consensus on how to solve this problem. Looking to the past does not accomplish this. We must look to the future.

    • Chancey Chambers Chancey Chambers says:

      I just read the informational packet and the finished presentation for the City’s January 14th special meeting and I am appalled. I have worked hard to promote positive relationship between the city and the district. However, this presentation crosses the line. The data in that presentation is designed to paint the fire department in the worst light possible. I have posted on this site many times clearing up misinformation but it would take countless hours, if not days, to combat the fallacies in that poisonous presentation. Numerical figures and commentary are presented in a way that attempts to vilify and insult the district and 29 Fire. Most favorable figures that cannot be manipulated are conspicuously absent. I hope the city council has the good sense to take action before City Manager Warne rips this community apart. I have never been so ashamed of my city.

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