Pine Cove committee rejects parcel fee extension

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The Advisory Committee for County Service Area 38 (Pine Cove) will recommend that the special parcel fee used to pay for ambulance service be eliminated.

CSA 38 will continue to receive a small portion of the property tax payments from the district, but the $61 parcel fee will be rescinded if the board of supervisors agrees.

“The special assessment itself can be reduced or put to zero when the county determines the assessment is no longer necessary to provide the service the assessment previously funded,” wrote Michael Franklin, the county’s CSA project manager, in an email. “This reduction would be proposed to the Board of Supervisors during the annual setting of charges. It doesn’t eliminate the special assessment, just prevents the continued collection of an unnecessary assessment.”

The committee initially began last week’s meeting with a continuation of the February discussion of how the parcel fee funds might be used in the future. Marge Muir, committee vice chair, suggested creating some broad uses for the funds — communication and community abatement. In particular, she advocated using some money to help individuals who could not afford to abate their property.

Committee Chair Jerry Holldber noted that the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council has money and recently received a grant from 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington for this purpose.

With a current reserve balance greater than $660,000, members Robert Hewitt and Thom Wallace were reluctant to recommend the parcel fee’s extension since the property tax revenue will continue to the CSA.

“If we don’t know exactly how we’ll spend the money, its hard to tell the public,” Wallace said. He argued that the money, which has been set aside for several years to acquire a new engine for Station 23, could be used for this purposes.

Hewitt expressed similar concerns about recommending a fee extension, even at a lower level, while the CSA 38 balance continues to grow. “I can’t support a parcel fee in an election,” he said and, referring to the $660,000, and added, “What’s all this money for?”

The vote was 4-0-1, with Muir abstaining.

The fee was initially approved in an August 2004 vote as $50 with an escalation formula. The assessment helped defray the cost of emergency ambulance service, which the Idyllwild Fire Protection District provided under contract with Riverside County.

In 2004, the cost of the contract for ambulance service from IFPD was $76,446. By 2015, the contract’s last year, the cost grew to $128,858.

A year ago, when Riverside County adopted a new countywide ambulance contract with American Medical Response, it stipulated that the Mountain Plateau (exclusive of Idyllwild) should be part of this service. Thus, beginning July 1, 2015, CSA 38 residents no longer had to pay collectively for the ambulance service. AMR does charge individuals for cost of transport to hospitals.

In other business, the committee agreed to join with the Station 23 staff to develop and construct a flagpole and plaque honoring all of the station’s volunteers.

“I like the idea of history and listing the names of all the volunteers,” commented member Lou Padula.

The committee also unanimously recommended a 2016-17 budget to the supervisors and that included funds for a new engine and some new funding for fuel-abatement projects in the Pine Cove area.

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  1. James D Walters May 18, 2016, 9:33 am

    How much does an ambulance cost? How much a year do EMTs cost? What are AMRs response times? What were response times when IFPD handled the ambulance? I am willing to pay money for better service or even as a way of prepaying and not getting hit with a huge bill later for inflated abulance ride to “help” AMR make up for those who never end up paying for their ambulance ride.

    Reply

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