The Board of the new Idyllwild San Jacinto Regional Fire Authority held its first meeting Thursday evening, June 9. The board is composed of the five-member San Jacinto City Council and the five-member Idyllwild Fire Protection District Commission.
While the session last more than three hours, the decision to begin operating the San Jacinto Fire Department was postponed until a future meeting.
After a 45 minute closed session, Michael Maurer, of the law firm of Best Best & Krieger, and attorney for he City of San Jacinto, advised the joint board and directly the City Council members that an agreement for dispatch service for the Fire Authority had not yet been obtained; therefore the item should be pulled from the agenda.
In its absence, it would be inappropriate for the Council to commit city funds. Consequently another joint meeting will need to be scheduled to approve a budget after a dispatch agreement is secured.
“We are working multiple avenues attempting to secure dispatch,” said Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz. “I’m optimist we can secure dispatch by the drop dead date.”
Reitz then went over many issues, such as salary levels, benefits, and rules that the Board will need to approve as the new fire department begins to operate. Reitz offered the current IFPD set of regulations as a model for the JPA and the current agreement with the Idyllwild Career Firefighters Association as the model for an agreement with JPA employees.
“That’s the beauty of participation with you,” said Tim Hults, San Jacinto City manager, commenting on the employee agreement. “The city does not have to start form scratch. It makes sense to use your infrastructure.”
Idyllwild Battalion Chief Mark LaMont presented the proposed budget and discussed each line item for the new board members.
While Reitz and LaMont recommended that the Board use Cal Pers for its retirement package, the board asked staff to present an alternative that was a defined contributions program for comparison.
Also the Council members asked for a budget modification that would staff two city stations with cross-trained personnel. The presented budget of $2.66 million would provide a five-person staff. Three would cover the fire engine and two for the squad every day of the week. “There will be a captain, engineer and firefighter available every day,” said LaMont.
Board chair Andrew Kotyuk, also San Jacinto City mayor, asked Reitz and LaMont to bring back a budget that assumed four vehicles were staffed consistently. The initial estimate was this option would increase the total cost by $160,000 annually.
Reitz told the board that interviews will be held with prospective staff in the next few days and a full complement could be hired by June 14, once approval is issued.