LAFAYETTE -- Residents hand-picked by city leaders to study emergency services in Lafayette are taking a hard look at fire and emergency service delivery, including whether the city should continue to receive those services from the county -- or look elsewhere.
Members of the Emergency Services Task Force met for the first time this week to start their analysis and craft recommendations for "optimal" city fire and EMS delivery "within budgetary constraints" in the wake of countywide reductions. The City Council voted in June to form the committee and has requested it deliver a preliminary report on its findings by Sept. 30.
Headed by Councilman Brandt Andersson and Councilwoman Traci Reilly, the six-member task force includes a retired firefighter, a public works manager and a university professor. Reilly is the only woman working with the group.
While it didn't make any major decisions Tuesday, the task force did hear from a handful of grateful but frustrated residents who thanked city leaders for partnering with the neighboring Moraga-Orinda Fire District and using MOFD funds to purchase land in Lafayette. There, a new fire station serving west Lafayette and east Orinda could one day be built. MOFD interim Chief Stephen Healy, who attended the meeting along with departing ConFire Chief Daryl Louder, confirmed that the land purchase closed last month.
The city agreed to buy the land on the district's behalf following months of public outcry over the county's decision to close a Contra Costa County Fire Protection District station on Los Arabis Drive earlier this year, and reassign its firefighters. The decision came after voter's rejection last November of a parcel tax officials had estimated would have raised an estimated $17 million to keep the struggling district's 28 stations open.
ConFire and MOFD officials also discussed for months jointly building and operating a future station at the Lafayette site but county supervisors, who oversee the ConFire board, have not agreed to a partnership.
"Lafayette decided that we needed to do something to give ourselves more options than only have the option of accepting whatever ConFire and the supervisors wanted to do," Andersson said. "With that property in hand, in our control and not being sold off to some other homeowner, now we actually have all the options that include a joint station at that site."
That station's future will be studied by the task force's "fire and medical services" group, which is one of three subgroups proposed by Andersson. Different scenarios suggested for review include the city merging with MOFD with a "Station 46" in the mix; continuing with ConFire with or without the new station, or contracting with another agency.
Andersson also suggested special attention be paid to service delivery in west Lafayette and the city's northeast portion, which is served by ConFire engines in neighboring Pleasant Hill.
The other proposed study groups include a "finances" group that will investigate and evaluate ConFire and MOFD revenues and expenses, including capital budgets and pension and health care liabilities. That group is also being tasked with determining the amount of Lafayette property tax revenues allocated to fire service, and what residents would need to pay for "acceptable" service under different scenarios. A "process and politics" group will explore detaching from county services, among other issues.
The study groups will begin meeting individually after the task force clearly defines Lafayette's emergency services "problem" at their next meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at city offices. They will then report their findings to the group.
All task force meetings are open to the public.