Joint public meeting later this month
The Idyllwild Fire Department is in discussions with the city of San Jacinto to provide fire and emergency medical services to the city. Currently, Riverside County Fire Department provides these services to San Jacinto.
In a press release late Monday afternoon, Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz said, “… joint discussions are currently taking place with the administrations of the district and city to form a Joint Powers Authority for the purpose of providing fire protection and EMS services to the citizens of San Jacinto.”
“This is a big deal, very big,” Reitz said Tuesday. And he stressed that neither the San Jacinto city nor the IFPD commission has yet endorsed nor approved the idea. “The two boards will discuss its formation and make changes to the draft document.
“Earlier in the year, it started with a casual comment and evolved into more detailed discussions later this year,” he stated.
San Jacinto and the Idyllwild Fire Protection District will schedule a joint meeting later this month to discuss this idea, according to Reitz, who has been in private discussions with San Jacinto City Manager Tim Hults.
Job descriptions for fire captains, engineers and firefighters for the JPA, as well as job application forms, are already posted on the IFPD web site. None of these documents inform the applicants assert that the joint powers authority has yet to be established.
Not only do the job applications have to be submitted by the deadline of May 20, but applicants must meet “minimum requirements of the Idyllwild San Jacinto Regional Fire Authority Rules and Regulations,” which do not yet exist.
Reitz explained that the plan is being drafted so that it can be implemented if the city and district approve. “Once they accept it, we have to flip the switch,” he said.
Currently, he anticipates that one station will immediately be staffed. Over time, the JPA staff will work with the JPA board to provide a larger fire service to San Jacinto, whose population is more than 45,000 people.
The release specifically said the fire and EMS services would be provided to San Jacinto and did not identify what benefits would accrue to Idyllwild.
“Idyllwild will get cost savings from the shared administration costs,” Reitz said. For example, his salary as the likely chief of the JPA would be shared between IFPD and the JPA.
“Joint powers” is a term used to describe government agencies that have agreed to combine their powers and resources to work on their common problems. When the public officials of two or more agencies agree to create another legal entity or establish a joint approach to work on a common problem, fund a project or act as a representative body for a specific activity, “joint powers” are being exercised.
When contacted by the Town Crier for comment, Niki Moore, an attorney for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, opined that for two existing public entities simply to come together at a joint meeting with an already fully-formed concept of a joint powers authority, without having held open public meetings of their own to broach the matter to their public, “flies in the face of the Brown Act.”
Moore said that a reasonable interpretation of the Brown Act would require that each agency hold a separate public meeting, allowing for citizen comments, before holding a joint meeting to finalize the formation of the new joint powers authority.
Moore also said that she cannot fathom that the administrative heads (Chief Reitz and City Attorney Hults) could have come together to formalize job requirements, applications, and application deadlines, without advanced approval from their respective boards, which would require open meetings. And to obtain board approval for their joint powers authority negotiations outside of open meetings would itself constitute a violation of the Brown Act.
Jack Clark contributed to this report.