03/31/2012

Calif. city may merge fire, police chief posts

Move could save up to $90K in six to 10 years

 

By  Ryan Sabalow
Redding Record Searchlight
 
The Lake Shastina Community Services District may soon have an administrator who will hold the title of both police and fire chief.
 
General Manager John McCarthy said the district north of Weed will be losing its current police chief, Rick Alves, in July when Alves retires, so merging the duties of its volunteer fire chief and a full-time police chief makes financial sense.
 
"We are like everybody," he said. "Most agencies are really hurting for money. We're trying to show our constituents we're doing everything possible to save money without raising fees."
 
Though the proposed move wouldn't immediately have a cost savings, the district is banking on a full-time fire/police chief being able to apply for more grants and other benefits.
 
The district hopes the move could save $50,000 to $90,000 in six to 10 years, McCarthy said.
 
The two departments combined have received around $319,000 in revenue so far this fiscal year, which ends in July.
 
The revenues come from fees residents and property owners pay. The unincorporated area's exact population wasn't available Friday, but Mc-Carthy said the district has around 3,100 lots.
 
The current police chief is a sworn law enforcement officer who oversees two full-time officers.
 
Fire chief Josh Paulus oversees up to 25 volunteer firefighters, according to the district's website. Mc-Carthy said Paulus would likely be moved into a captain or an assistant chief position.
 
"This will give us more of a presence for the department as far as administratively, somebody who could devote more time to needs of the fire department," McCarthy said.
 
The new dual-department chief still would be a sworn law enforcement officer with police training who could make arrests and conduct investigations. He or she also would be trained as a firefighter and medic, McCarthy said.
 
Other cities, including Grants Pass, Ore., have similar arraignments, he said. McCarthy said the district's board of directors doesn't feel comfortable with disbanding its police department and contracting with the Siskiyou County sheriff as other neighboring cities have done.
 
The negligible cost savings wasn't worth the lack of personal service, he said.
 
"It was looked into a couple years ago," McCarthy said. "The people who live here really like the feeling of security of their own police officers patrolling the development."
 
Siskiyou County cities Fort Jones, Dunsmuir, Montague and Dorris several years ago contracted with the sheriff's office, Sheriff Jon Lopey said. 
 
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