IFPD proposes to manage San Jacinto fire service

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The Idyllwild Fire Department and the city of San Jacinto have been discussing the establishment of a Joint Powers Authority to provide fire and emergency medical services to the city. Currently, Riverside County Fire Department provides these services to San Jacinto.

Both Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz and San Jacinto City Manager Tim Hults said the two agencies will hold a public meeting this month to present the idea and determine whether to pursue it. If there is agreement, the JPA’s implementation will be quick since San Jacinto’s contract with Riverside County Fire Department for service expires on June 30.

Reitz and Hults have been discussing the idea for several weeks. But it originated with a casual conversation between Reitz and San Jacinto Mayor Andrew Kotyuk.

“Basically, it’s a new agreement and financial stability for fire service in San Jacinto,” Hults said. “There’s no impact on IFPD firefighters. We’ll hire all new firefighters to initially staff one station.”

Last week, Hults said San Jacinto has two fire stations. One is a state station and not part of the agreement. The other station belongs to San Jacinto and had about 5,000 calls annually, according to Hults.

About two years ago, budget problems forced the city to contract the staffing and work at this station with Riverside County Fire Department. Its police service also was shifted to the county and about 17 city employees had to be let go.

Hults and other city leaders wanted to resume better fire service to the city and re-open the station, including adding an emergency squad this year. The proposed costs, quoted to Hults, were more than $3.5 million. After Reitz and Kotyuk had some conversations, IFPD presented a proposal, which Hults said, “… will save us quite a bit of money.”

Based on the preliminary discussion, Hults foresees savings approaching $1.5 million. This is the reason for its interest in the JPA. Reitz has said that IFPD will benefit from the JPA funding a portion of some staff costs.

Reitz stressed that several options have been proposed and until there is an agreement on establishing the JPA, the staffing and cost details are rough approximations. One option did provide four-person crews. “We’ll have to hash out the details,” he said. “The city will have to decide what it wants from the JPA.”

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