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Follow-up: TPWD votes to retain the 29 Fire Department

By   /   January 24, 2013  /   5 Comments

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This is a follow-up to last nights historic Twentynine Palms Water District / Fire Department meeting. At the onset of the meeting “Sam” Moore, Jr., President of the Board, read a statement by Councilman Jim Harris. Harris wrote to the Board, “I fully supports any decision you make.”

First off, I believe that all five 29 Council members act in good faith in each decision they make, and that all are honorable people whom (is it who) love their city.

Some, however, need to be challenged on decisions making, and by  compounding the problems concerning the future of the fire department and public safety by refusing to make a decision one way or the other on the fire department.

Transparency went out-the-window last week when the Councilmen Klink, Mintz and Warne met in an informal closed meeting twice with two water board members to discuss public and  fire safety funding.

This casual/informal closed meeting was likely the doing of the city council in the stead of a community-wide joint open meeting which was requested by the TPWD and rejected by the CC.

At last nights meeting, it was discovered that transparency was buried like a dead skunk because there is an absolute blackout on what was discussed during said meeting. I believe this was the doing of the City Manager. There is NO statutory exemption to have a blackouts on informal meetings when not discussing things required behind closed doors.  Harm done: A Cyptic lack of transparency?

The people in this community have a constitutional right to know what took place. They want to know what is going on with public and fire safety. The CC must improved their record on transparency.

As mentioned in the story last night, TPWD Director Chancey Chambers suggested there may be a way for the TPWD to fund to TPFD by some collateral water district source — which he informs is legal. There was no discussion on this, but as I recall the buzz word ‘Towers” was used. “We do have revenue,” said Chambers.You can be sure there will be more discussion on this.

Fire Chief Thompson pointed out that if the 422 Lear station is closed there is still going to be costs. The Chief also explained that the misplaced criticism — “there is no plan” —  is mere misinformation and smoke and mirrors. There IS a plan. The water board and the Chief hammered away at documenting the plan.They unequivocally proved their case.

You can bet that the insurance rates in Indian Cove will increase if the fire department is gutted, the Chief explained because they would be outside the four mile zone away from a fire station and public safety. Be sure the same applies in Desert Heights.

Given the CC’s stonewalling and refusal to make a decision on the fire department funding and public safety, this exacerbates the problems for the community and decisions makers on the water board. All of the Directors are unhappy with some members on the CC and some residents “trying to beat-up of firefighters”.

Chancy Chambers reported that if Station 422 is gutted the downtown Station 421 will still have to go to calls in Desert Heights. Remember the TPWD is retaining management of the fire department, not the county.

Interestingly, the highest pay scale for local firefighters is lower that entry level county firefighters:

Highest Paid Scale in 29: $60, 561

Lowest Pay Scale in County: $61, 025

It was pointed out that Warne’s figures of $4,000,000 pertaining to CalPERS is erroneous. “If you don’t divest, you don’t trigger termination liability,” reported Chief Thompson. It is a fact that there is a $1.8 billion of county unfunded liability. This is but one reason that the water board decided to scrap going with county fire, and because of expected cuts the County will trim from public and fire safety. It was also noted that had County fire taken over, those volunteers still get paid by the hour.

Turning over fire infrastructure and equipment of 1.1 million of hard earned resources was a pill the water board didn’t want to swallow. Be sure, County Fire would keep cutting fire services, said Chambers.

Board member Cisneros said, “We shouldn’t give-away our resources to County, we worked hard to get it. [Why] wrap it up in a bow and give it to County. That’s stupid!”

Come June this year, the Fire department will be bankrupt and defunct. This is why the CC needs — as they say — to “get of the pot.” Water Director BO Bourikas explained that he fears down the road there will be on-going funding problems (as opposed to County Fire taking over). Chancey explained County Fire will continue to cut funding.

A few people from the public spoke last night. Most notably Steve Irwin (Spelling in question). Mr. Irwin said the “County is playing a shell game”. He added, “Why have a city” if fire is turned over to County fire.

Why have a city if the city does not does not provide infrastructure? To wit, no water services, no fire department, hasn’t its own police force, etc. The city would be pretty much irrelevant if it continues to be irresponsible . It just becomes an overbloated-useless bureaucracy draining taxpayers for naught.

Steve Irwin summed it up last night during public comments: “The city spends hundreds of thousands on  1/10 of the community. The city needs to man up and assume [its] responsibility.” 

 “City’s been getting a free ride for 25 years,” reported Z107.7 this morning.

Summary: Seems now there are three option in re public and fire safety now that it will be local: Cut it by half and close the 422 Lear station; Keep Lear Station open with help from the city;  or possibly the TPWD could find additional funding to  keep Lear open with ancillary (but legal) water district “Tower” funding.

Footnote: This presentation is a bit disjointed but it needs to be posted ASAP.

Related Articles:

Councilmen’s inaction places a curse on Twentynine

Twentynine Palms: A life or death situation? 

Twentynine Palms Residents are not Douche Bags

“The emergency we now have.” 

Out of touch with reality

UPDATE: All Cities were not created equally

Bigger fish to fry than City Manager Richard Warne

Wednesday is Round Two of the Fire Fight of the World

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About the author

Branson Hunter

(This story was posted by Cactus Thorn contributor Branson Hunter)

"The ends do not justify the means." If you use illegal mean to accomplish a legal and even desirable result, the good result does not make the bad means you used justifiable.

5 Comments

  1. CORRECTION AND UPDATE:

    Mayor ProTem, Dan Mintz, informs me that in both informal ‘meet and greet’ meetings with 2 member of the water district and 2 city council members — staff was NOT present, the City Manager was not present. No decisions were made during either meeting. The subject matter of that was discussed, Dan informs, will be presented at the next CC meeting. Thank you very much Mayor ProTem Dan Mintz.

    • Comments to my conversation with City Councilman Mintz regarding Correction and Update:

      It remains that that two informal “Meet and Greet” meeting with two water board members and two city council members is clearly lacking disclosure and transparency. Ron would not disclose what took place, other to say ‘No decisions were made”. Ron is indeed a gentlemen and a very likable person but why the cloak of secrecy at this juncture?

  2. Steve_In_29 Steve_In_29 says:

    Steve Urban (Irwin) here.

    What I basically said at the Water Board meeting was that the City had been getting a free ride as far as Fire Protection went for the entire 25 years of its existence. That they were willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of the taxpayers money on such things as the Project Phoenix boondoggle which would benefit about 1/10-of-one-percent of the City’s population and that they needed to step up and spend the roughly 1/6th of what they budget for Park and Rec to keep control of the Fire Dept local and both stations open. If the City wasn’t willing to, at least help, provide (the required by law) fire protection then what was the point of having a City.

    I also stated that County fire keeps mentioning “economy of scale” as a big selling point but that it was a smoke screen because it doesn’t work if ALL the cities in the program are underfunded (which they are). For the full content of what I said check out the recording of the meeting.

    I must say that I find the ongoing attempts by Warne, Corbin and former Mayor Cole (wrote an editorial about how everything was fine with only one station) to sidestep the City’s responsibility towards the safety of its citizens so that they can continue to fund “art” and other self-serving feel good projects sickening.

    • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

      When the first old fellow or gal falls or burns and dies from a late arriving engine in Quail Springs or the inevitable head on out by the Radio Station, a Marine bleeds out because Station 421 is up on Condor attending a fender bender, maybe the families can find some solace in knowing that our City Fathers saved that money it would have spent to keep 422 open, for a splash pad and public art.

  3. Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

    Amen to that Dan. I am working on a story that should show that we in 29 Palms are being doubled tax for our fire protection and the city has been keeping a significant percentage of our taxes for the last 25 years in order to fund Park and Recreation and other non essential or “nice to have” services. I think the numbers will shock the citizens of 29 Palms.

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