At its January meeting, the Pine Cove County Service Area 38 Advisory Committee decided to pursue the acquisition of a new fire engine for Riverside County Station 23 in Pine Cove.

At the end of December, CSA 38’s cash balance was slightly more than $610,000. However, the 2013-14 cost of the emergency medical services contract with Idyllwild Fire Protection District has not been deducted.

The ambulance contract will cost CSA 38 residents $123,900 this year. However, special assessments of about $90,000 and another $40,000 from property taxes will still be received before the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2014, thus offsetting the ambulance contract cost.

So the cash balance will remain at near the current level.

Committee Vice Chair Marge Muir moved to include up to $400,000 for a new engine in the draft 2014-15 budget. The committee will meet in April to review the total budget for the next fiscal year.

Riverside County Fire Department Mountain Battalion Chief Sean Dakin said that the cost to outfit the engine would probably be included in the RCFD budget. He assured committee member Robert Hewitt that the county would maintain the engine, ensure proper certifications and take care of its insurance.

The committee also briefly discussed the progress of the county’s Emergency Medical Services evaluation. Bill Brown, County CSA administrator, described the three current options — negotiate with American Medical Response, the current provider, request bids either for the whole county or divide the county into zones. Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz, who attended the meeting, pointed out that the current Mountain Zone would have to be bid even if the Board of Supervisors decides to make no further changes.

Reitz also asked if CSA 38 expenditures were limited to aiding volunteers at Station 23. “I thought CSA 38 existed for the purpose of volunteer firefighters and emergency services. The county just voted to get rid of volunteer services. How can you expend funds that don’t meet your criteria?”

Muir, Brown and Dakin all responded to his question. Muir described that CSA 38’s origin and its first project, which was to build the fire station.

Brown then explained that he had several opinions from the county’s legal counsel affirming that community and public safety were sufficient justification for CSA 38 expenditures. They were not limited to supporting volunteers.

Dakin then explained that the county’s volunteer program was not disbanded. The Board of Supervisors had modified it and renamed it a reserve program. In the past year, several reserves had served at Station 23, according to Dakin.

Again this year Cal Fire, in concert with CSA 38, will be recruiting for local reserves.