The San Carlos City Council on Monday unanimously voted to partner with Redwood City on a hybrid fire department in front of more than 150 raucous and passionate attendees, many of whom held anti-Wackenhut signs in opposition of the private company competing for the contract.
The hybrid proposal will cost San Carlos between $5.33 million and $5.57 million, saving them $1.8 million.
“With this option, San Carlos could still keep a city identity,” Redwood City Fire Chief Jim Skinner said.
City manager Jeff Maltbie said the council could expect an official draft contract by June.
As a back-up plan, the city also voted to 3-2 to reinvite the private firm Wackenhut Services, Inc. to rebid should negotiations with Redwood City fail.
The hybrid option was first offered to the city on April 18 after the Redwood City fire chief James Skinner wrote a letter to San Carlos assistant city manager Brian Moura.
The details of the hybrid option are as follow:
- Redwood City will provide four firefighters staffing “Truck 9” out of Fire Station 9.
- Supervision and scene management will be provided by Redwood City.
- Administrative staff will be provided by Redwood City including Fire Chief, Deputy Fire Chief, an administrative assistant, an administrative secretary, and one secretary working out of the 755 Marshall Street office.
- A fire inspector will be assigned to San Carlos.
- Training services will be provided by Redwood City’s Batallion Chief.
- San Carlos would maintain an emergency medical services batallion chief.
“Each of the costs expressed in this document are considered “go-forward” costs, which means that transition costs have not been developed for workforce assimilation, infrastructure and apparatus repair/replacement, technology integration/upgrades, etc. This can only be done when specific services and expectations are defined,” said the proposal.
Wackenhut – a private company that had a sent in a bid to the city just before the April 1 deadline - offers businesses and governments an array of services, including guarding service, disaster response, emergency services, control room monitoring, armed security, special event security, security patrols, reception/concierge service, emergency medical technicians (EMT) service, ambassador service.
The scandal-ridden company had raised the ire of those in attendance, and conjured more than an hour of impassioned pulic comment.
“I am very concerned about partnering with Wackenhut,” said one San Carlan. “Businesses will burn and people will die. That’s all there is to it.”
“I’m outraged at the mere thought of a private company taking over,” said another. “These people are the best of the best. We know their integrity. With a private company there is no continuity of care.”
“I am disturbed and alarmed to read articles about abuse and misconduct on the Internet about Wackenhut,” said another.
Each anti-Wackenhut comment was followed by wild applause, so wild the Mayor at one point asked for the doors to the chambers to be closed.
For the few not opposed to Wackenhut, their public comments about the innovative and progressive approach to running a government like a business were met with boos.
The city’s decision to work with Redwood City came after more than a year of exhaustive searching for a replacement for Belmont. The Belmont-San Carlos joint powers agreement will expire in Oct. 2011.
The new partnership with Redwood City will also keep options open for the continued regionalization of fire services in San Mateo County.
“Redwood City has a good council and they are great city,” said Mayor Omar Ahmad. “The fact that they have an experienced chief and management staff is a very good thing to have. We have stated we want to go toward regionalization. It is a much easier lift if we are working with Redwood City.”