Fire authority seeks new structure
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
May 10, 2013 | 1799 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MOUNTAIN HOUSE — Local fire officials met Monday, May 6, to discuss changing the structure of the organization that provides fire protection for the southern reaches of San Joaquin County.

Under a joint-powers agreement called the South County Fire Authority, the Tracy Fire Department and Tracy Rural Fire Protection District cover Tracy, Mountain House and their rural surroundings.

But at the request of the San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission — which helps direct regional growth and special districts — Tracy fire officials are being told to streamline their governance model, according to Tracy Fire Chief Al Nero.

“LAFCo’s concern is when Tracy annexes property into the city they’ve done it differently than other places,” he said. “We have one fire department, South County Fire Authority, developed in 1999, and LAFCo says it’s confusing to them, and they have some concerns.”

Whenever land is annexed into the city’s boundaries, the land is not “detached” from the Tracy Rural Fire Protection District and added to the responsibility of the city’s fire department, Nero said.

Without going through the review process, Nero said LAFCo officials will no longer allow Tracy to annex land into city limits without detaching the land from the rural fire protection jurisdiction. This process, he said, would make it difficult for the rural district to do business because it would lose property tax revenue as it loses land.

Nero said the South County Fire Authority is considering four options, including abolishing the authority and forming a new joint power.

Regardless which plan is implemented, Nero said, no changes will be visible to the residents.

“There will still be seven fire stations, same people manning them and the same level of service that currently exists,” he said. “It’s not a bad thing. This could help us. It’s worth doing that analysis.”

Monday’s meeting was the first of three to obtain input from local residents — the second was Thursday, May 9, at New Jerusalem Elementary School, and the third is at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 13, at the Tracy Transit Station, 50 E. Sixth St.

Fire officials also plan to hold a meeting with members of their citizen steering committee at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16, in Tracy City Hall, 333 Civic Center Plaza.

The steering committee, formed in November, oversees the effort to form a new governance model and includes former Tracy City Councilman Steve Abercrombie, Tracy resident Dan Bell, Mountain House Community Services District President Celeste Farron, rural Tracy resident Bob Sarvey, South County Fire Authority representative Jim Thoming, Tracy firefighter Ryan Gall and Tracy Rural Fire Protection District member John Vierra.

Nero said the Tracy City Council, Mountain House Community Service District board and the Tracy Rural Fire Protection District will discuss the matter in June, and a final recommendation will be made to LAFCo in July.

• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or drizzo@tracypress.com.
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