Firefighters take issue with Mountain House board’s vote to end contract
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Oct 25, 2013 | 5539 views | 29 29 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mountain House firefighters distributed a flier to residents attending the Mountain House Firefighters Pancake Breakfast on Oct. 13 at the Mountain House fire station, 911 S. Tradition St. The flier addressed objections by the firefighters union to a vote by the Mountain House Community Services District Board of Directors to cancel a contract with the South County Fire Authority in 2015.
Mountain House firefighters distributed a flier to residents attending the Mountain House Firefighters Pancake Breakfast on Oct. 13 at the Mountain House fire station, 911 S. Tradition St. The flier addressed objections by the firefighters union to a vote by the Mountain House Community Services District Board of Directors to cancel a contract with the South County Fire Authority in 2015.
slideshow
MOUNTAIN HOUSE — Residents attending the annual Mountain House Firefighters Pancake Breakfast on Oct. 13 received pancakes, sausage and a flier from their local firefighters detailing the state of fire service in the community.

Members of the Tracy Firefighters Local 3355 political action committee handed out fliers addressing a Sept. 11 vote by the Mountain House Community Services District Board of Directors to terminate the existing fire service contract by 2015.

According to Joel Fell, treasurer of Local 3355’s political action committee, the flier was meant to give residents “all of the facts” regarding the contract termination.

“Our intent of the flier was to bring attention to the issue,” Fell said during a telephone interview on Monday, Oct. 21. “We didn’t want to scare anybody. Our goal was simply to make everybody aware of the potential contractual issues that would happen. We wanted to remain completely transparent about the issue.”

The flier spoke the present quick response by the fire department, the importance of having a full-time local paramedic engine and the firefighters’ commitment to serving the Mountain House community.

“We are your neighbors,” the flier stated. “We believe in this community and want to continue serving you. If you believe, like us, that public safety is too important to be left to chance, please call the Mountain House CSD today and let them know.”

Fell said it is the union’s belief that the board did not have all the facts when it voted to end the contract.

Mountain House General Manager Janice McClintock told the board of directors on Sept. 11 that the only way to review the contract between the community services district and the fire authority was to give two years’ notice of termination plans.

She told the board she found “irregularities” in the fire contract following an audit by the Stockton-based auditing firm of Croce & Co.

McClintock also told directors on the night of the vote that Mountain House was paying too much for its fire service and they should renegotiate the contract.

She said Mountain House was paying 15.8 percent of the total service bill for the Tracy Fire Department, while receiving less than 6 percent of the calls for service.

Fell said firefighters understood that the board was trying to save money and commended the directors on their fiscal diligence, but he said terminating the fire contact would cost the district more money, not less.

He said the contract states that upon termination, the district must pay the fire authority about $6 million to buy back the fire station and equipment.

“We think the vote might have been different if (the board was) provided all the facts,” he said. “We feel there are other ways to renegotiate the contract other than terminate it.”

Board President Celeste Farron said she believed it might be the firefighters who were misinformed. Farron said the firefighters “provide a great service” but the “contract is old.”

“My feeling is we looked at the contract; it’s old and stale; it’s from 2003,” she said. “It needs to be up-to-date so it’s fair and just to all. I know we don’t want to get rid of public safety. We’re just looking to renegotiate the contract.”

Tracy Rural Fire Authority has provided fire service to the community of Mountain House since 2002, according to Tracy Fire Department Chief Al Nero.

Negotiating teams from the community services district and the fire authority plan to meet next week to discuss ways to continue the contract, Nero said.

“Our expectations are that all parties will negotiate in good faith,” he said. “I’m anxious to get it going and I’m anxious to get it done.”

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

 
Comments
(29)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
WhatsGoneWrong
|
October 31, 2013
Bankruptcy by end of fiscal year 2014. Merced (2010) written all over it.

Empty schools and empty fields.

And a water canal nobody can use runs right smackdab through the middle of it.
WhatsGoneWrong
|
October 31, 2013
Interesting to watch. MH is county ( not rural ) but still county.

And the south county fire department is also county.

Our leader, she reminds me of a VP of a company that makes widgets. The company gets a discount on widgets if employees purchase widgets for internal use.

So, one day the VP, she goes and spends a 100k on a consultant company that tells her she should pay less for the widgets?

What does the consultant know or care about widgets. They got paid 100k and are off scot free.

We the property owners and taxpayers got stuck with her bill.
newsgraphics
|
October 29, 2013
As a Mountain House resident, I applaud our General Manager's decision to look into this issue rather than to simply rubber stamp a perpetual contract year after year. Rather than simply making knee jerk assumptions, she did the professional thing and hired an outside firm to study the issue. And, if the analysis supports the conclusion that we have been overcharged since day one, and continue to be overcharged., we are owed reimbursement -- whether it is in the form of a more favorable contract, or a discount on how much we "owe" the district to buy back OUR fire station that was built and paid for with Mountain House funds and then given away for free. The fire district and surrogates can continue to spin this issue with unfounded, straw man arguments, but the bottom line is the MHCSD has a duty to the residents of this community to ensure that we are not unfairly subsidizing another city's fire services in proportion to our actual usage, and to make sure the per household costs we are paying are not way out of line compared to Tracy or other communities. That is called fiscal responsibility, plain and simple.
MountainMike
|
October 29, 2013
I applaud her too. However, if she continues, I will simply stop applauding. MH went from 2 person to 3 person (1800 homes) also from one vehicle to now two vehicles. This took staff from other rural stations, as fire medic already alluded to.

Sure, Jan is right. We can save $200k to $500k. All we have to do is tear up the contract like she advocates. And then give up three firefighters to the rural Shulte station.

Additionally, Jan can tear the paperwork in half and give the middle finger to the South County. But that would mean problems with the county who serves the rural areas around MH. And it also means Jan would have to explain why they're coming in above 5 minutes service time for more than 85% of the calls.

As it stands now, we have it made in the shade with more than our fair share of county fire services. Under Jan's plan, which she says won't get rid of fire, the fire services would actually be reduced 66%. Why do you think she uses the word confusing to describe the contract?

Bottom line. Breach of contract means higher wait times exceeding, not just 5 minutes, but over 10 minutes, from Shulte - at around 15% of calls, with a 33% reduction in staff...

MountainMike
|
October 29, 2013
And ultimately Jan would have to pay more to the County Paramedics (I think it is AMR). That $250k to $500k savings.

Poof!

I'm no fire fighter or paramedic, but when you read the consultant's report, it's clear they could have saved money by having an intelligent discussion first.

No forethought on the quality of service we are receiving is exceedingly above par compared to other cities.

And no forethought on balance between exceedingly above par fire/paramedic services / AMR.

Conclusion. I think Jan's plan will cost us more in the long run.

Brave, noble, admirable. Yes. Without a doubt. But the buck stops there.
newsgraphics
|
October 30, 2013
I don't think there is any basis to determine that the service we are getting from our fire department is "exceedingly above par" compared to other cities. Compared to which others? Livermore-Pleasanton? Dublin? Brentwood? East Contra Costa? As much as I appreciate the pancake breakfasts, free smoke detector installations and car seats for kids, these are things other departments do as well. Secondly, your obtuse claim that fire services will be "reduced by 66%" is ludicrous. It's easy to throw out an abstract "66%" figure for effect though, to give people the mistaken idea that our station will only be staffed 33% of the time. As for response time, you are also making the assumption that MHCSD won't regain use and control of the Mountain House Fire Station and equipment. That is not a given by any means. And finally, your use of loaded language such as "breach of contract" is beyond disingenuous. Ending a contract is not breaching it. Of course, this kind of language has been par for the course with the special interests' and their surrogates who have a vested interest in maintaining the existing perpetual agreement at any cost, despite it being unfair to the taxpayers of Mountain House. The bottom line is, as a direct result of OVERPAYING our fire department year after year to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, we can't properly fund our police services. That is a far greater concern to me as a citizen of Mountain House. You may not be a firefighter or paramedic, but your use of loaded words, misleading figures and blind support of the existing perpetual agreement without modification proves to me that you definitely have some special interest "skin in the game."
MountainMike
|
October 31, 2013
MH CSD can take ownership for six million. Then hire six fire fighters (instead of nine firefighters). Then pay more money to AMR for paramedics and ambulance service.

Thus reducing the fire personnel by 33% to 66%.

Do I have a vested interest? You're right. I use the fire department services. They have been to my house when needed.

If you have spare time would you read the consultants report?

If you have spare time would you also research and find out how much the CSD pays AMR and share that information?

If you can help with that piece of the puzzle, I'm sure we can reach a better understanding, without you feeling the need to accuse a fellow citizen of being a special interest.

Or, you can go on with your "proof" you talked about and continue to feel good for getting it off your chest.

But the buck stops there.
newsgraphics
|
October 31, 2013
"MH CSD can take ownership for six million." Yet more propaganda. I've read the original agreement Nowhere does it say that the CSD must pay "market value" for the fire station and equipment in the event of a contract termination. It states that the price paid "shall be determined by mutual agreement." Factoring in the years of documented overcharging, it may be in the best interest of the fire district to agree to an amount less than current market value, as opposed to costly litigation. Secondly, yes, I have read the consultant's report. You are assuming that Tracy Rural is the only fire provider that has the capability of providing a 24/7 paramedic unit allocated for Mountain House. Let's wait for competing bids before we make judgements.
guapo
|
October 31, 2013
Newsgraphics.

Glad you're putting together a very measured argument. However you are missing some facts which could be detrimental to your point. I too have read the contract and the consultant report which were posted on the firefighters union Facebook page. Proof of "overpaying" for fire service gets pretty hard to find. According to the city of Tracy's website, they pay 8.1 million for 3 fire stations that is 2.7 million per station. They pay an additional 1 million a year for a second fire truck at one of their stations. If you live in a neighborhood in Tracy near a fire station, there's no guarantee there's a fire truck there 24/7. They don't back fill it when that station is on a big fire or accident. The MH station IS staffed 24/7 and back filled by a Tracy unit when the MH truck is out of the MH area. Sounds like MH pays 400k a year less than tracy for better service. So how are us the CSD overpaying again? Plus it's not the CSD cutting the check. It's the county.

There's no county ambulance. MH pays nothing and gets nothing. AMR is a private company who won an exclusive RFP to provide ambulance service in the county. There's no amount of $ MH can pay AMR. That's illegal
flatRonny
|
October 29, 2013
A few commenters below like to say bad things about union workers, of which some are fire fighters. I don't know why. Does your job require you to go into buildings with dead bodies? When a neighbor dies, are you the first responder? Think about it. Not like halloween or anything, but the reality of the job and what it entails.
mthouseman
|
October 29, 2013
I don't follow your argument. Many people across this once great country of ours do that job every day, without having to be in a union.

Unions in the 20's = good

Unions in current times = not so good and are even detrimental at times.

MountainMike
|
October 31, 2013
I have a question about that. Are there any non-union fire departments in CA?
Firemedic_not_Tracy
|
October 28, 2013
Ok,here are the facts. I know the facts because I've worked for both... I do not work for the Tracy fire but I do live in MH and have a vested interest in having the fire dept. The Fire Service around the Bay area, the Valley and California provides not only fire and rescue services but also Paramedic Service. This means there is a Paramedic and 2 EMT's on the Fire engine to respond to your home within 3-5 minutes. The "County Paramedics" are actually paramedics on an ambulance that work for a private company. This company provides service all over the county. Paramedics, both fire and private, provide advanced medical life support. For the uninformed, this means they can... give medications, start IV's, intubate(put a tube in your trachea to breath for you) defibrillate(shock your heart) as well as other advance medical training beyond the basic scope. BOTH Fire AND Ambulance Medics respond to EMS calls to your home. The Fire Department gets there much faster because they are local. The ambulance, usually coming from Tracy- can take 10-15 minutes to get to MH. AFTER your emergency the fire dept can be back in service quickly in case another emergency comes in. (continued)
Firemedic_not_Tracy
|
October 28, 2013
continued----When taking someone to the hospital.. it can take an hour to hour and a half. During that time, your ambulance will be coming from Manteca, Lathrop or further. Now, why does that matter? Why does time matter? Even the Fire rig on Shulte by the Freeway is quite a ways from the Northwest end of MH. If you or a loved one collapses, falls off a roof, has a major medical emergency or Grandma visiting has a cardiac arrest... do you want to wait what seems an eternity for your fire dept paramedic to show up to provide care because as a resident or board member thought having a fire station in your community was "too extravagant".. Or you think that one EMT and one Paramedic on an ambulance stationed in your community can provide adequate care to your loved ones while waiting for more help to arrive? (By the way, the Fire Station on shulte is only staffed with 2 personnel... a medic and a captain...but that is ANOTHER STORY for another time.. and if that apparatus is on another run, you will be waiting a VERY long time for another engine to arrive and provide care).... The "county" private paramedic company only cares about their bottom line and will provide only minimum staffing and ambulances required to make their contract "on scene" times. Many times it is cheaper to pay the fines to the county for being late, than to provide more ambulances to go on calls. It's a shareholder bottom line, not your livelihood. Your local fire department cares about your community, many live in Tracy or MH and will be there when you or a loved one needs them. The board bean counters are putting a price on the lives of you and your loved ones and homes. Kitchen fires, auto fires in your garage, fires started by careless candles will ALWAYS happen and will need more than 2 guys on an ambulance with a fire extinguisher to put it out.... if they are even there and not covering another part of the county or running a call in Tracy because they are the closest when the ambulance there is busy... Having a fire department is "the cost of doing business". The Tracy fire guys do more with less, are "underpaid" for what they do and what they provide. I do not work for Tracy fire, but I do work for another Bay Area Fire Department. I've also worked with the same private company that provides your ambulance and I have an intimate knowledge of their "business practices". I have, in my community, as a firefighter/paramedic, been fortunate enough to be close enough to save a few lives with my knowledge and training and that of my crew. I also know that if I was even 2 minutes further from arriving at these homes, these patients would have never survived and been able to walk into my station 2 weeks after a cardiac arrest to thank myself and my crew. Before spouting anti union, anti fire rhetoric, ask yourself this... what if I really needed help for myself, a loved one or a neighbor... how long will I be willing to wait for it?
tracyresdnt
|
October 29, 2013
'underpaid' ?? LOL Let me know when we can get together for that snipe hunt, looking for the infamous underpaid union employee...
Blue-Jeans
|
October 29, 2013
I can see both sides. I'm sure MH looks like it's in a bind, but not to put them down, but they could not afford county paramedic and fire both in MH. I saw this coming years ago and it's why I didn't buy in MH. Not because of the community, but because their planners didn't convince me they knew what they were doing.

Now how do they get out of the situation? I'm guessing nobody really wants to cancel the agreement. They probably want county ambulance stationed in MH. Two ways to do that. One make major cuts to services offered in MH. Second way is to raise taxes. Will be interesting to see what happens with rising costs and Calpers.

I left the union years. Not a big fan. But I also don't put my life on the line. So I have a lot of respect for these guys and I liked reading your comment fire medic. Made me think, before I made any of my own comments from my usual ol' anti-union perspective. Have a good day all!
Localeze1
|
October 28, 2013
I can see you were being sarcastic Wobbley, but in case you were actually seriously thinking they might try to go through with it ...

Where exactly does our board expect to cough up an additional six mil to purchase a fire house?

Wobbley
|
October 28, 2013
Hopefully Tracy won't use the $6M to keep Macy's in the mall. TBH, the only reason I go there anymore is the book store, and it's on the way out for a sporting good store. That means Big 5's days are numbered as well.
Localeze1
|
October 28, 2013
I don't think it's a good idea to attack other businesses over a problem with our Community Services District.

I just hope they know what they are doing, because I really feel that they could be making a serious mistake in canceling the contract. Once they reach an impasse with the South County Fire District; and officially cancel the contract, then the cost will go up from 2003 a lot has been built here and a lot is planned including a school.

Either costs will go up or cuts will have to be made. Probably they will sacrifice cuts and use the South County Fire Station south of here. Either that or they will have an eleventh hour come to your senses moment.

mdsmith17
|
October 28, 2013
You cannot use the 6% stat when determining how much Mountain House should pay for fire service. You have to determine how much the Station out there costs to run. Yes it's all newer construction out there so they likely don't have as many calls, but it's also a ways out there and if you want a timely fire response then you have to station personnel out there. That costs money. You can't expect the residents of Tracy to foot the bill to keep those fire fighters out there, when the residents of Tracy are not using those fire fighters out there on a regular basis other than major events. That would be like the City of Ripon trying to charge the City of Manteca to pay for their fire department since the fire fighters in Manteca handle more calls than the ones in Ripon.
Rd_runner
|
October 26, 2013
Modern construction rarely catches fire. Fire protection is essential, however a quick response from over the freeway really doesn't seem unreasonable at this point in time. Modern day Fire responses are over 70% medical, so a full time paramedic station in mountain house would be much more financially feasible. Any way they slice it, I have to agree that if they are truly paying 15% of Tracy's fire bill while receiving 6% of service calls, Mt. house is paying too much. That being said, I agree that the contract would better serve the mt. house residents by being re-negotiated, rather than canceling it altogether. Kudos to the board, for keeping an eye on over-inflated costs. Sounds like someone's doing their job.
mdsmith17
|
October 28, 2013
Call your insurance company if you live in Mountain House and ask them how much the home owners insurance premiums will be if the fire department has to respond from over the freeway versus from a neighborhood fire station.
qwerty1507
|
October 28, 2013
Of course there is a 6%/15% differential. There is also a new fire house in MH. And more importantly this fire house edges up against Alameda county. That means the fire house is dedicated to Mountain House 100%. If MH had been near CDF this would not be an issue.

Sadly MH Board of Directors already knew this. They want a High School and they thought they had plenty of money to get everything, so when they made the contract they already knew all this. Except for the General Manager who is new.

But now, they want a Mountain House High School and they should NOT move half of the fire house to the old CDF fire house. Rd_runner makes a pis poor point about new construction. If it takes fifteen minutes for a fire truck to come from the CDF station teachers and their pupils in HS or in those college trailers could suffocate from all the smoke.

The smoke is actually more dangerous than the fire in those first fifteen minutes. Mountain House Board of Directors (if they want a high school) should figure out how to pay for what they started. Either that or the school district should put the brakes on the building of the new high school, until this is sorted out.

Fortunately, they are
sportyone
|
October 26, 2013
To crap1210:

What proof can you offer, they will be there in 2015. I have a feeling they will get the reduction by MH board. Why, because they seem more interested in getting a HS, than keeping the fire station here.

There is a fire station across the freeway on Shulte, by the warehouses. My guess, MH board will reduce staff at MH fire, and use the Shulte station as backup.

Why, because they have a bug up their but to get a HS. They dont care if it burns down while the MH truck is at Delta College and the Shulte truck takes 10 minutes just to cross the freeway.

If I am wrong, ok. But just like BART, we might not know till somebody gets hurt?

Is it stupid to think about what if ? No.

MH board always waved the general plan like a flag and told us we were fine because property tax is based on lot size.

Now they want a HS, and say to hell with the fire.

Not a smart bunch.
crap1210
|
October 26, 2013
Another stupid comment posted by sportyone! what does the 2 people that lost their lives have to do with fire protection in Mountain House? It also looks like you failed to read the words of letter. Who said that the fire department would be replaced by county paramedics? Mountain House does not pay for paramedic services, they are a private company who transport the sick and injured, again a stupid remark. I have an idea for you storyone, if you still live in Mountain House in 2015, stop by and say hello to the men and women that work over at the fire station, who by the way will be the same firefighters who are on duty in 2013.
mdsmith17
|
October 28, 2013
You are talking about the ambulance service being private, not all of the paramedic services. Although the ambulance services provide paramedics, so does the fire department.
tracyresdnt
|
October 25, 2013
Glad to see someone playing hardball with the unions.

What would be cheaper would be to pay non-union paramedics to sit out there 24/7. They'd make up that 6 million in no time flat.
sportyone
|
October 25, 2013
Howd that work for BART. Oh thats right 2 people were killed.

Lets see. The county has a deal with fire dept and replaces them with county paramedics.

Oh but wait. They already pay for both services because county paramedics dont put out kitchen fires and go out to Delta college to protect their business from toaster ovens.

Bottom line is our leaders sold us a dream here in MH and it aint happenin. So they probably trying to reduce service and relocate at least one truck to MH/Shulte.

The reason it cost so much is the fire house went into the general plan. And that never worked out.

Same goes with MH High school.

Lucky for me I have a fire extinguisher and no HS age children.

mthouseman
|
October 25, 2013
the flier was meant to give residents “all of the facts” regarding the contract termination.

LMAO

Just have to sit back and admire the propaganda spewed forth by the unions.



We encourage readers to share online comments in this forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a space for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Comments that stray from the topic of the story or are found to contain abusive language are subject to removal at the Press’ discretion, and the writer responsible will be subject to being blocked from making further comments and have their past comments deleted. Readers may report inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at tpnews@tracypress.com.