The board of directors unanimously voted to approve a drafted request for proposals after a motion by Director Jim Lamb, which was seconded by Director Bernice King Tingle.
General Manager Janice McClintock reminded the board that it had authorized the district staff to give notice of the contract termination to Tracy Rural Fire on Sept. 11, 2013. She said the staff had since created a draft RFP for the board’s review.
“We put together, per your request, an RFP for fire services,” she said. “The RFP is designed to be inclusive of anyone — South County Fire Authority is certainly eligible and encouraged to respond to this RFP to provide a contract for services. The RFP encourages alternative proposals. We would be open to any alternative structures that anyone wanted to propose, private or other public agency.”
She said that option would include an in-house fire department.
Director Jim Lamb said he wanted to see an estimate of the cost if the district decided to create its own fire department.
“I suspect that the answer is we can’t do that, it’s super expensive,” he said. “We should at least know what those (cost) numbers are.”
The contract with Tracy Rural Fire expires at the end of September, and the general manager said she hoped to release requests for proposals by May 6. She said the timeline included a submission deadline of Aug. 11 with hopes of completing contract negotiations by March 2. There was no information about who would provide fire service to Mountain House residents between September and March.
According to the staff report, the goal of a request for proposals is threefold:
• Obtain services based on a contract where the district funds can be associated directly with the services provided;
• Provide the same level of service at a reduced cost;
• Obtain reporting services that provide monthly response call reports, quarterly fiscal reporting and timely budget requests.
The draft presented Wednesday was modeled on Newark, which ultimately retained Alameda County Fire Department, and Morgan Hill, which contracted with California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, McClintock said.
In reviewing the draft, Lamb questioned why it specified a five-year contract with two five-year extension options.
McClintock told the board that it would take a year to cancel any contract, so the decision to extend or cancel the contract would occur at the end of four years. She said the board would receive staff reviews of the contracted company and quarterly reports.
She said one of the reasons for seeking new proposals was that Tracy Rural Fire officials had not responded to requests for their scope of services and information about the existing contract budget with Mountain House.
When the district did receive a budget from Chief Al Nero in mid-March, she said, the staff found two “concerning issues.” She said the math did not add up between the requested increased expenses and the total budget, and the proposed budget was less than what MHCSD was on track to pay for Fiscal Year 2013-14.
She said the staff asked for clarification but none was provided.
Before the matter was closed for discussion, Director Celeste Farron asked what would happen to the ownership of the local fire station.
Board Attorney Daniel Schroeder told her that the station was not an agenda item, but proceeded to say that the contract dictates that the current holder would have to transfer the station title back to the community.
To clarify, director Andy Su asked Schroeder if that meant the district would get the station without any cost. The attorney informed him that the district would have to pay Tracy Rural Fire the fair market value for the building.
With the vote, the staff was directed to begin advertising for proposals.
Nero was unavailable for comment before press time Thursday.
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at email@example.com or 830-4225.