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San Carlos, Redwood City to Share Fire Services

City manager says draft contract will be ready by June.

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.”

Mark Borson April 26, 2011 at 02:26 PM
Excellent decsion by the San Carlos City Council. The city is now positoned perfectly for Regionalization which will be coming down the pike in two to three years since it will be the only way in my opinon that cities will be able to provide fire servcie to it's citizens. I am against The private option offered by Wackenhut for two reasons. The first is that this option leaves alot of answered questions for how firefighters will be hired, treated and retained. The second issue which has not received much attention is the length of the contract (ten years)that Wackenhut had proposed. It would not be wise for San Carlos to lock themselves into a contract of this length as their neighbors start signing on to regionalization in the next few years. I believe that this would hamper San Carlos's ability to partner with neighboring cities as Regionalization gains momentum. Hopefully the San Carlos City Council will pull the Wackenhut proposal off the table permantly as a viable option instead of keeping it on the back burner.
Steve Hayes April 26, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Reasonable choice - sounds very similar to a choice that was almost made the last time (several years ago) a Fire reorganiztion was discussed. The downside coming out of this is the fact that the organization is now being split in two - the entire organization should be moving toward the regional model. The flaw in all of this is we have two City Councils that are unable to work together toward responsible goals. Consider that the next time you are asked to vote.
Rudolf Johnson April 27, 2011 at 05:44 AM
“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." There NO place in a civil discussion for such inflammatory and puerile kinds of phrases. This is not a serious comment, and frankly is fraudulent. This person has no business talking to anyone if they cannot talk honestly and with integrity. Speaking of honesty and integrity, it wouldn't really matter if the private company had issues or not. That's just a straw man anyway considering those who are self-interested are very quick to protect their power and their union contributions. Hint hint. Why can't SC afford a fire department? Just look at the buffoons trying to squeeze the taxpayers at every turn. Bye bye FD.
Albert April 29, 2011 at 01:30 AM
Well done, San Carlos City Council. Folks seem to forget: the City of San Francisco has THREE times the population of San Mateo COUNTY, yet they have only ONE Fire Chief, ONE Police Chief. One command structure. Our county supervisors, rather than doing their job and promoting regionalism (in this case, allowing the CDF to bid on the San Carlos RFQ) sent San Carlos to "be nice" with Belmont. Wow, real leadership there, county supervisors. Unions send out hit pieces and people are all too willing to believe it all. Wake up, citizens. Firefighters are retiring in their early 50's at 90% of their last salary. Firefighters make six figures. Most stations average at most two calls a week. Who is paying for it all? This is NOT sustainable and the sooner folks realize it the sooner my kids will have a chance to live in a town that doesn't follow Vallejo's example. People who claim that San Carlos got rid of our police miss the important fact that our Sherriffs are doing a much better response job than the SCPD ever did. We had police officers in town who after working in San Carlos for over five years NEVER made an arrest! Regional fire will be more effective, and less costly just as our regional law enforcement system improved themselves. The three council members who voted in favor of the hybrid solution on Monday did the right thing.
Jason Mansfield April 29, 2011 at 04:56 PM
Some have said this structural defecit that is causing all the hubub appears to be largely because of PERS. A question occurred to me this morning... I wonder how many public employees (including fire fighters and police officers) are confident their PERS retirement will be there when they retire? Particularly the younger folks - will they still be getting what they expect and were promised in their later years of retirement? Personally, I don't expect to see a dime of social security, even though my employers and I have been paying into it for many years and I get that nice statement once a year. No way am I counting on it. But I feel comfortable knowing I can direct the investment of my 401k, IRA's, and pension... and know it's fully funded - the money is actually there.

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