Amid its discussion of the budget for fiscal year 2012-13, which begins June 30, the County Service Area 38 Advisory Committee thought that county officials had granted approval with a long-standing effort to purchase a new fire engine for Station 23 and the Pine Cove community.
However on Thursday, Bill Brown, County Service Area Manager for the county, stated that a final decision has not yet been made. The advisory members and attendees had left with the understanding that a new engine would be purchased within the year. Brown confirmed that his organization, the Economic Development Agency and the Riverside County Fire Department, are in agreement that an engine purchased with CSA 38 funds would have to supplement fire protection in Pine Cove and contribute to encouraging a larger volunteer company.
CSA funding cannot supplant county responsibilities.
“It cannot replace CAL FIRE’s obligation to supply the station,” Franklin told the Committee. A discussion of the options for purchasing the engine followed.
On Friday, Advisory Committee Chair Jerry Holldber said he thought the decision was up to CAL FIRE and they had approved it. Vice Chair Marge Muir and member Robert Hewitt confirmed that they left Wednesday’s meeting believing the purchase would move forward.
“Yes, I did,” said Muir. “But two years ago we voted to buy an engine and it hasn’t happened.”
The committee did approve a proposed budget for fiscal 2012-13, which starts June 30. This will be submitted to the county for inclusion in the overall budget package, which goes to the Board of Supervisors in June.
In the past month, the Committee’s subcommittee, composed of members Lou Padula and Thom Wallace, had met with Station 23 Capt. Scott Bethurum to discuss it. These discussions led to an increase in the capital improvements item and compensating reductions elsewhere.
The total budget is $533,000, which includes $380,000 for a new fire engine.
Michael Franklin, the county’s representative at the CSA 38 meeting, said he was working with the County Assessor to resolve the issue of the mistaken CSA boundaries and consequently uncollected property taxes.
Holldber requested that county counsel be consulted, particularly about the back tax revenue and possible parcel fee questions.
In August 2004, 213 CSA 38 voters approved the parcel fee to support the ambulance contract. This was 76.3 percent of the votes cast, according to the Registrar of Voters. Another 41 voters, all casting a “No” vote would have been necessary to stop the fee’s collection.
Members of the medical service ad hoc committee, Muir and Hewitt, reported that they had meetings with Idyllwild Fire. “It’s a good beginning, with very positive steps, but a ways to go,” Hewitt said. “It’s one community here. There are no lines between the communities.”