Costa Mesa pink slips entire fire department

March 24, 2011

As part of a plan to solve a looming pension crisis and budget gap by outsourcing services, Costa Mesa officials handed pink slips to their entire fire department. [NewYorkTimes]

Almost half of the city’s workers were told late last week that, come September, they would probably be out of a job. Disbanded departments include fire, maintenance and street cleaning.

Private ambulance companies will respond to medical emergencies and fire calls will be routed to the Orange County Fire Department.

Pink slips went out to more than 200 of the city’s roughly 450 workers sending many into a panic. After receiving a summons to come pick up his letter, one city worker climbed five stories to the roof of the city hall building and jumped to his death.

The City Council moved quickly to approve the outsourcing and layoff plans as a way to solve a budget gap of as much as $15 million next year and deal with pensions that grow exponentially each year, eating away at the city’s $93 million budget.

“We see the train wreck coming and the only questions are how bad it will be and how quickly we want to try to stop it,” said City Councilman Jim Righeimer, who has led the push for outsourcing and has battled with public employee unions for years to the New York Times. “We have to stop blaming other people and start to solve these problems ourselves. These are hardworking people, but we know we cannot afford to keep paying what we have been.”

City officials expect to cut anywhere from 15 to 40 percent in labor costs.

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Wait a minute here, folks. In one article everyone is complaining about the high cost of ambulance service (service provided by an outside private company, not by county employees) and in another article everyone is supporting closing down public services and contracting with a private company to save money. Am I the only one who sees a bit of a conflict here?? You can’t have it both way…

We have met the enemy, and he is us. mobocracy for the win

No, I think the bigger problem is the politicians that we elect (and keep re-electing) thinking they are for the people when in reality they are they for their own graitification, favors, etc. just look at the Mayor of Grover and Mr Wallace, talk about deals, that is the biggest rotten deal in the County and there are a lot of them (ah yea, let us not forgot the Atascadero politicians and Mr. Gearhardt). If peple would just stop being selfish, greedy, and the appearance of being pious we would all be better citizens and certainly better off for it.

I understand where you are coming from, pismo 20. But here are some facts that I don’t think you are taking into consideration – mainly that the gross income received by the firefighters comes with many more hours than a 40-hour week.

Fire stations are manned 24/7. Firefighters work 24-hour shifts – a firefighter’s work week is about 72 hours – and If someone is out sick, someone else has to come in to cover their position. That person is likely making overtime pay as he/she has already worked a full shift. The number of firefighters needed to safely staff an incident is recommended by the National Fire Protection Agency, so the department cannot run shorthanded. You will either have more people working less time and making less per year, or fewer people working more time and making more per year. 24/7 coverage requires a lot of hours. If you have more people working less time, you have more benefits to pay, so holding staffing down is more cost effective, even if it increases the number of hours worked and the amount earned appears higher.

If fire departments are no longer first responders in medical situations, then the number of medical personnel on the ambulances will have to increase – and the costs for that will increase also. And the breadth of service will be greatly diminished.

Providing emergency services is a rather complex proposition – I’m sure there are ways to be more efficient. But accusing those who provide the services of fear tactics and greed is wrong and I can’t stay silent when I hear that.

Am I the only one that noticed the Tribune today? Page 2 March 24, 2001

San Luis Ambulance company was a major sponsor of the Women for Community Hit and Giggle Event.



So why didn’t it say “sponsored by the tax payers of the City and County of San Luis Obispo”?

San Luis Ambulance, isn’t that the company that wants to renew their contract for even more money this time?

I hope that someone will contact the city/county and show them how our money is being spent.

I do indeed support women and the Hit and Giggle. Ask my wife, god bless her.

I don’t support San Luis Ambulance using my money for anything other than serving the public.

This is self-aggrandisement on the part of San Luis Ambulance and shows their arrogance.

Pink slips?

SLO Ambulance must have its contract approved by the Board of Supervisors. If approved, the COUNTY pays for it.

ALL residents of the county pay taxes, and would pay taxes for the service.

The COUNTY TAXPAYERS pay for SLO Ambulance.

What part of PUBLIC payment is not private enterprise do you not understand?

SLO Ambulance is like any other private contractor that the county hires. They might hire a contractor to do road work ie Madonna Construction. Madonna donates to different organizations as well. I”m not saying that ambulances don’t make too much money, I really don’t know how much the make in profit but they are part of the medical rip off in this country. They certainly do seem to charge too much. On the other hand I didn’t care for Alex Madonna and felt that he made too much money. Nothing to do with the firefighter issue though, apples and oranges.

Paul: Every once in a while, please check at least some of the facts. The contract with the county is toprovide a serve and direct bill the consumer often called a franchise contract. Not all contracts require a payment by the county and that is the case with the two ambulance providers in the county. This is similar to the cable TV franchise contracts. What part of franchise contract do you not understand?

You are ignorant. The county has to approve the contract, but only the pt’s get charged. The county is involved so that the cost to the pt is as fair as possible.

Hell no! Wwe can’t afford the unions now and you want to turn the whole thing over to them. Are you crazy, we need less union public safety, not more. Fire departments should be fire and diaster responsers, medical should be left to the medical industry. EMT all get the same training and shame on you for stating that the City fire employees are better able to perform the duties than an ambulance EMT. The ambulance EMT leave to join the fire department because of pay and benefits, I would too! It should be the ambulance service that calls for extra help should they need it, as I am sure they would from time-to-time, but I really don’t think we need a whole “crew” for a sick person. Accidents and diasters are different.

Last thing we need now is to get rid of unions. Recently in a prison a nurse was punched and beaten by an inmate. This happened because due to cutbacks there was only one guard instead of the usual two to help her dispense meds. This was a 66 year old women beaten within an inch of her life. The union is fighting to get jobs reinstated so this doesn’t happen again. But right now the cons have so much control. The extreme right certainly demonstrate that the only people that they care about are the fat cats Who is going to advocate for the blue collar workers rights? How on earth do we go against a huge entity that might be hurting their employees to make a few extra bucks? Unions now more than ever!!!!

The firefighters will be rehired by the county. All the shifts have to be covered 24/7

They may be rehired under the 2 tier system which would result in a savings to the taxpayers while the firefighters would be recieving a fair retirement.

It said right in the article that Orange County will be able to do the job with 15 fewer firefighters…

By September there will be 15 firefighters retiring between OC Fire and Costa Mesa so I doubt there will be any job losses.

I wonder what back room deals are being made between McKinney and O’Malley with the Atascadero firefighters? Sundays Tribune report on Atascadero salaries should be interesting.

Why is the county wages and such not exposed.

Unfortunately, I know too many LOP’s and lolligagers in the county…

How many hours by the water cooler are we paying for? How many computer games are played on the computer we bought when county workers are “working?”

How many county mangers hold office at the coffee houses?

Considering all the enbredding in Atascadero, deals have been made… This is the most corrupt City in the County and that is not saying much for the others. McKinney and the firefighters are all buds. Too bad he doesn’t have as much respect for the Police. Obviously, McKinney should go. Oh wait, he is gone 4 months our of the year with all the time off. If the City got rid of his assistant, which we would not need if McKinney worked full time less vacation. Shame on this Good Ole Boy/Girl Council!

The last 40 years have seen huge swathes of responsibility taken from the citizens and passed to faceless bureaucrats to control while the money to fund it all has been extracted under threat of violence by the State.

In return, the state has offered the feckless, lazy and talentless “jobs and security” in the way of non jobs, paper pushing, status quo defending, diversity, lesbian vegan morons in their thousands. Protected. Safe. Secure in the knowledge they will never have to do anything other than vote the party line and keep paying the vig to protect their right for others (YOU) to pay their bills.

They tirelessly and sometimes violently complain when “their funding” (your money) might be cut off and they might have to stand on their own two feet for once. There is absolutely no justification too thin, tortured, extortionate or cowardly for them to use in demanding their right to open and extract whatever they please from YOUR wallet.

And you are playing right into their hands – it’s called “divide and conquer” Now you are establishing the “us” and “them” mentality. We are ALL in this together. There is no “us” and “Them”. If we are united instead of divided, we can get results. Otherwise, it is just a bunch of bulls*#!.

Costa Mesa is already talking with the Orange County Fire Authority who is preparing a contract to take over service if both sides agree. Almost all city firefighters will likely be absorbed into the county fire authority, who has better pay and benefits. Some city firefighters will retire or have to take a demotion to a lower rank, and very few if any will not be transfered into the county fire authority. These guys will not loose a dime and their pensions remain the same if not better.

What about the other city workers?? And, if Costa Mesa cuts a few more and no longer has any employees, why not just disband the city?? That way, the taxpayers can save all of their money. What baloney!!

The contract proposal is a matter of public record. The fire authority will continue to provide primary paramedic services and a private ambulance company will be contracted to provide BLS (non paramedic) ambulance transportation.

EMS is a lot different in Orange County. Fire departments are the sole provider of paramedic services. That decision was the direct result of the Orange County Ambulance Association representing the numerous small mom & pop owned ambulance companies of the time not wanting to invest in paramedic services in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The public demanding better EMS service, especially after the hit TV series Emergency in the mid 70’s. Demanded or overwhelmingly voted for in the various cities to provide paramedic service through their fire departments. Had the area private ambulance companies of the time recognized the future of paramedics and made the investment to provide the service as originally requested by the county supervisors, they would still be the primary EMS provider instead of providing the most basic level of ambulance service by providing BLS transportation with the fire medics accompanying the patient in the private ambulance.

By the mid 70’s the ambulance companies in orange county realized the huge blunder they brought upon themselves and by 1980 it was too late, a county ordinance was passed specifically designating fire departments as the sole paramedic providers county wide.

The proposal has 3 options with 24/7 staffing of 23-25 firefighters vs. the city’s current staffing of 29. Depending on the option the city chooses it will offer a five year savings of up to $26,379,844.

Here’s a link to the proposal;

No. It says right in the article that the county will be able to do the job with 15 fewer firefighters.

if you read the proposal. it states 3 options of reducing on duty staffing by 4, 5 or 6 firefighters. There are 3 shits, totaling a reduction of 12, 15 or 18 firefighters depending on what option the city chooses to take. Plus there will be the additional savings from the reduction of management, support and overhead staff.

County Fire Authority headquarters is located in the adjacent city of Irvine where most of it’s specialized units are located, in addition to the resources support of equipment and manpower from over 60 county fire stations.

It’s a good deal for Costa Mesa and they should take it!

We NEED Double decker bus’s and Vipers more than we need fire fighters!

And don’t forget that huge articulated Fire Truck #1 for Jamba Juice and Scolari’s runs!!

Let me see if I understand this correctly …

Costa Mesa expects the Orange County Fire to pick up the cost of fire service to their city for less than they are spending currently?? The first article I read about this said that they didn’t know what they were going to do when they issued the layoff notices (NYTimes reprint). So… Orange County Fire staff don’t have pensions?? They are expected to provide these services for free?? It seems to me that Costa Mesa acted in a panic without much thought to the outcome.

Let’s take this a step further, as suggested by Crusader above – many other cities follow suit. There is a whole new industry forming out there, folks – it’s called private fire service providers. And, hey – they will probably be cheaper because they won’t be regulated – they won’t have extensively trained personnel – they will be just taking advantage of the situation and filling a void. Personally, I don’t want them responding to my emergency.

I think it is time to get real and stop blaming this group’s or that group’s pensions for the problems and start looking at the top of the heap. If you want to talk pensions, that’s where the big pension bucks go – not to the guy who arrives at your house to put out your fire. Sure, management doesn’t want any cuts to their benefits, so they are cutting the foundation out from under their city. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

How about looking at spending in general – look at “necessity” vs. “desire”. Firing city staff sure won’t help the economy … fewer employed … fewer $$ spent … fewer taxes collected. I don’t think anyone would be applauding the actions of Costa Mesa if it were their city acting with so little regard for their future!

jhagstro writes: “…it’s called private fire service providers. And, hey – they will probably be cheaper because they won’t be regulated – they won’t have extensively trained personnel – they will be just taking advantage of the situation and filling a void…”

Obviously you are probably a firefighter because if you were a business person in today’s enviroment you would know that businesses are regulated to death, and undoubtedly, this would be highly one. This is a changing world, and few well be spared. That thinking ouside the box, because these turmoils are not going away anytime soon, and there will and must be changes for all. We can not continue to pay for luxary anymore and the basics must be reduced. Taxing is not an option because if every entity (city, county, state, federal) had there way we would all be paying, paying paying. There is no more. Brown’s proposal alone is estimated to cost an average household $1000 more per year. I for one can’t afford it, and that is a fact. Food, gas, utilities, etc. are all raising and wages are on hold, please, just get it, we can’t afford it!

actually, no. They aren’t regulated very much. I worked for a company based in LA County that was private fire-rescue, they mostly did stand by’s for television and movie filming, car races, etc. Then they attempted to “augment” regular fire departments. I thought that the safety and work practices for the earlier mentioned activities were pretty unsafe, but after the attempt to do real fire work, I honestly don’t know how I’m still alive. Those private companies may be great for getting contracted out by insurance agencies to spray foam on houses during wildland fires to keep them from burning, but for anything more than that– its just pathetic.

I wonder what the pucker-factor is like right now at No.1 at the corner of Broad and Santa Barbara Ave?