Reacting to numerous local residents and property owners who confuse the state with the local fire jurisdiction, the Idyllwild Fire Protection District Commission approved a resolution opposing the 17-month-old state fire prevention fee.
Enacted in July 2011, collection of the $150 fee (only $115 if the property is within a local fire district such as Idyllwild) began in September. Apparently Fire Chief Patrick Reitz and commission members have encountered many angry residents who want to know how IFPD plans to use these funds.
“Every day people complain,” he told the commission. “No one is seeing any benefit and, in the last three months, they’re complaining about ‘our’ fee,” Commissioner Jerry Buchanan said.
Reitz and the board have had to explain that the fee is for state fire protection and none of the revenue is directed to the local fire district.
Consequently, Buchanan moved that his colleagues adopt, which they did unanimously, a resolution opposing the fee and send it with a stern cover letter to local state elected officials.
Buchanan and Reitz also felt that citizen objections to paying the state fee could negatively affect any IFPD effort to request an increase in local fire protection or ambulance fees.
“It will affect our ability if we go back to voters for repeat of Measure G [the parcel fee increase which was defeated in August 2011],” Reitz told the commission.
While Reitz emphasized that Idyllwild residents were not receiving any financial benefit from the state’s fee, he did tell that board that he believed, sometime in early 2013, CAL FIRE was going to add two more fire engines to its coverage of the Hill.
“I can’t turn down more firefighting resources on the Hill,” he said later. “We just want to make sure all agencies understand who has jurisdiction and where.”
In other business, the commission abolished the labor relations committee that was established in October. As a standing committee, its meeting would have to be posted and open to the public.
In recommending its abolition and establishment of a temporary or ad hoc committee, Buchanan referred to the previous action as an error.
The ad hoc committee will address the recent state legislation changing employee contributions to CalPERS and retirement qualifications just as the original committee was to do.
“We should appoint an ad hoc committee to deal wit the impacts of CalPERS on retirement and its work should be finished no later than June 2013,” Buchanan said, justifying the switch from meetings that are open to those that are closed to the public.
The biggest and most immediate changes will be applied to new employees — one of which is they must pay 50 percent of their retirement costs. IFPD employees only pay about 12 percent and Buchanan did not indicate whether the commission would recommend a change before the five-year window in the pension reform legislation.
Reitz did share with the commission that one reserve firefighter has resigned because of their concern about the application of the reform legislation on them.
“He felt pension reform affected his ability to serve as a reserve,” Reitz reported.