MARTINEZ -- A consulting firm hired to analyze service provided by the troubled Contra Costa Fire Protection District will hold public meetings in Lafayette and Clayton to talk about an ongoing fire service study and take community feedback.
The first such town hall meeting was scheduled for Monday night in Pittsburg. All three cities directly experienced cuts after supervisors voted to close stations or reduce fire service after the failure of a November parcel tax measure that would have raised an estimated $17 million to keep the district's 28 stations open.
In December, county supervisors approved a more than $460,000 contract with Missouri-based Fitch & Associates to analyze emergency services and conduct a concurrent fire services study. The town hall meetings will give residents an overview of the methodology used to conduct the fire study. It will also offer "an opportunity to speak directly to our team members about their views regarding CCFPD services," Fitch & Associates president Jay Fitch wrote in an email.
Consultants last week gave county supervisors an update of the study, which includes analysis of service call distribution and response times, among other issues.
According to the update, changes are needed because traditional 24-7 coverage is not efficient and because the district faces a financial crisis. ConFire has been struggling financially following a $32 million property tax decline resulting from the 2008 housing market collapse. Increases in retirement and health care costs and pension obligation bond payments continue to pummel the district.
Fitch said consultants do not plan to present any detailed financial information or findings at the town hall meetings, because the study is ongoing.
The information was also lacking at a recent town hall meeting for firefighters. Firefighters Local 1230 President Vince Wells said the study has not addressed the factors that led to the district's troubles, such as finances, district governance and automatic aid, in which ConFire firefighters provide service to other jurisdictions.
"There's nothing in there about the issues and the things that happened that got us to where we're at," Wells said. "There was no complaint about our service levels until the increase in our pension. Now you've got a company that comes in to redesign our fire department without even addressing the issues."
Despite their dissatisfaction with the county's hiring of a firm Wells said is more suited to conduct EMS studies, the union is encouraging the public to attend the meetings.
"We've reduced a significant amount of calls we go to now," Wells said. "That's going to continue. I want the public to come out and hopefully get an opportunity to get a better understanding of when changes are made, what they really mean."