In a surprising turn to those who attended the June 11 Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s commission meeting, President Jeannine Charles-Stigall withdrew from its agenda the items requesting Commissioner Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly’s resignation and the censure resolution.
Without explanation, Stigall said those and the vote on whether Schelly should remain vice-president would not be addressed at the June 11 meeting.
When asked if the items were permanently withdrawn, Stigall said, “No, they are tabled.” When asked if the items would be on the agenda of the next meeting or what would trigger their re-appearance, Stigall replied, “I’m not at liberty to discuss this other than I decided to table the items.”
Despite the absence of these topics, the commission still had a full meeting, especially related to future financial issues. Although it took no action, the commission did discuss possibly raising the $65 parcel fees on Idyllwild property owners and a draft 2013-14 fiscal budget.
While Stigall asked if the additional revenues could be earmarked for needed capital projects, Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz felt salaries were an important issue and should also be addressed.
Increasing fees was discussed but no vote was taken. The board did not know when the issue could be brought before the district’s voters. In August 2011, Measure G, which would have doubled the parcel fee to $130 from the current $65, drew less than 40 percent of voter support.
At the meeting, Commission candidate Nancy Layton spoke in favor of a parcel fee increase.
The parcel fee discussion was separate from the proposed budget, which did not assume any parcel fee increase. The draft budget totaled $1,668,000, only $10,000 more than the current 2012-13 budget. While the commission expects to have a nearly $30,000 deficit this year, the proposed 2013-14 budget would end with a $17,000 surplus.
In other financial matters, the commission had to reconsider and lower its proposed ambulance fees for 2013-14. The fee schedule approved at the May 28 meeting increased all the rates, including the ambulance fee, 5 percent.
However, Reitz told the board that the 2012 contract with Riverside County had been misinterpreted. Five percent is the maximum increase, after applying a formula using medical care cost price indices.
The county’s Emergency Services Agency returned the adopted fee schedule and limited the increase to 4.2 percent.
Following a closed session, Stigall announced that the commission directed Reitz to negotiate with SBA Towers for the sale of a cell tower lease on the parcel located behind the station at the corner of Johnson and Maranatha. Reitz estimated that the lease sale might generate more than $200,000 for the district’s coffers.
The current lease is with SBA for 65 years. The district earns about $1150 monthly; however, SBA can terminate with 30 days notice.
Because of the rapidly changing configuration of the cellular industry, the district was willing to review the offer. Reitz said, “The tower currently holds a Nextel/Sprint antenna. We know that Nextel has been absorbed by Sprint and that Sprint may become part of either Verizon or AT&T in the not too distant future. Couple all that with changing technology.”
In an effort to save money, the commission authorized the chief to send a letter to CAL FIRE requesting it to either conduct all fire abatement inspections within the district or reimburse IFPD for its cost of inspections. However, when asked, Reitz did not know actual inspection costs.
He did report that IFPD has made 1,310 inspections this year, all residential, and nearly two-thirds passed. The preponderance of failed properties complied with defensible space regulations before the final inspection.
With respect to the inspections and the recently imposed State Fire Prevention Fee, Stigall said, “We pay fees and [CAL FIRE] doesn’t do anything for us. So it’s appropriate to hand off the abatement process to them.”
The request for a proposal for a financial consultant, which was discussed at the May 14 meeting, has been sent to several potential bidders, Reitz reported.