(June 12) TWENTYNINE PALMS—A consensus that would unite the Twentynine Palms Water District and Twentynine Palms municipal officials over financially sustaining the fire department or possibly paving the way for a city takeover of its functions continues to elude the community.
Advocates for the department nevertheless remain committed to forging an alliance of local agencies that will allow for the modernization and expansion of the department. Since 1958, the fire department in 29 Palms has been overseen by the water district. The department grew to include two fire stations and seven firefighters to cover the 55 square miles within the Twentynine Palms City Limits and the 33 square miles of unincorporated county area that also falls under the water district/fire department’s 88-square mile jurisdiction. The city does not contribute to, participate in or subsidize the fire department’s operational budget, which is infused entirely by a special tax on landowners within the fire department’s service area.
For some, the gradual growth of the local population over the decades, the incorporation of the city in 1987 and the continuing fire hazards and need for modernization of the department’s first response medical care capability seemed to be an impetus for the city itself to assume from the Twentynine Palms Water District authority over the fire department.
Over the years, there had been suggestions to that effect, leading to some preliminary discussions, the most serious of which took place in 2007, when the city and the district began earnest discussion of annexing the fire department to the city, and formed what was dubbed the Joint Agency Fire Department Committee to look into the matter. On June 9, 2009, then-city manager Michael Tree told the council that if the transfer were to be made it would be best to do it totally and in one fell swoop rather than in stages. But because of complications with regard to the authority for the special tax that sustains the fire department and the formula for the distribution of tax revenues, as well as the discrepancy between the city limits and the district’s service area, the city elected to forego the takeover.
Efforts to beef up the fire department in a way that was independent of the city were made.
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By Venturi, San Bernardino county Sentinel.
This is a massive story dealing with a historic overview of the TPWD / TPFD / City of 29 Palms as it related to public safety.