PIEDMONT -- Piedmont will have a full-time fire chief, the City Council decided at its Monday night meeting.
Fire Chief Ed Tubbs has announced he will retire in May. He had agreed to split his time between Albany and Piedmont beginning in April 2011. The pilot program was extended two more years in April 2012.
Piedmont saved $136,000 per year by sharing the chief with Albany, which paid half his salary and benefits. But the uncertainty of a new chief accepting that arrangement led to the decision.
"It was very challenging," Tubbs admitted Monday.
Having Tubbs only half-time in Piedmont adversely impacted the department, City Administrator Geoff Grote said.
"Managing two departments in nonadjacent cities more than doubled Tubbs' workload," Grote said. "Employees said a half-time chief does not meet the department's needs."
"It served us during tough economic times," Councilman Jeff Wieler said. "The traditional model serves us better at this time."
Grote will cancel the agreement with Albany effective May 31. Recruitment will begin for Tubbs' replacement.
Tubbs stressed that staffing levels should remain the same in the fire department, with seven to eight firefighters per shift to ensure prompt levels of service. While Piedmont has very few house fires, it averages 600 ambulance calls per year from an aging population, most of which require transport. Detractors have pointed out that Albany, for example, has six firefighters per shift. Tubbs explained that Oakland, the nearest city, has diminished capacity at times to aid Piedmont.
Finance Director Mark Bichsel shared good news about the city's audit of its 2011-12 finances. The general fund balance of more than $4 million is well over earlier projections of $3.1 million. Revenues from real estate transfer taxes were brisk, with $1.76 million so far this year, with more than $3 million estimated by the end of fiscal year.
Expenditures were $878,108 less than estimated. That included savings for community cable KCOM, recreation department, police and fire salaries. Other savings were realized for supplies, negotiated benefit reductions, contract services and fire supplies.
Bichsel also noted that the old police and fire pension plan for employees hired before July 1, 1971, (closed to new participants) has $9 million in assets. There are 18 beneficiaries remaining with an average age of 80 in the plan. The council can consider annuitizing the remaining beneficiaries, closing the plan and transferring likely $8 million to $10 million to the current retirement health care plan to pay down its obligations.