The city of San Jacinto placed the proposed Joint Powers Agreement with the Idyllwild Fire Protection District on its June 7 agenda.

City Manager Tim Hults, in a memorandum to the council, said they had two basic options. The first was to continue to contract with Riverside County for fire and emergency services. This might be for just one year, in order to organize and get a San Jacinto Fire Department established through a JPA with IFPD.

The second choice was to authorize proceeding with the JPA in order to have a city fire department operating by July 1. With only three weeks remaining before the old contract with the county expires, Hults recognizes that much needs to be done but acknowledged that the city and IFPD had already begun some preliminary steps that will save some time.

He noted that the JPA could be established without beginning operations. It “…would not be required to provide service unless directed by the city.”

Based on the information Hults provided to the council, the IFPD proposal would cost the city $1.7 million to operate one fire station. There may be capital costs to begin operations, Hults wrote, “Depending on the quantity and quality of the equipment, either the city or the authority will need to make an initial purchase of additional equipment, with a maximum cost of $355,000.”

Whatever the total costs of operating the new agency, Hults specifically told the council “…the city would be responsible for the costs to operate the San Jacinto Fire Department. The city could determine its desired service level based on the costs it chooses to budget.”

The new contract with the Riverside County Fire Department will cost the city $2.1 million, but that includes some more services, such as hazardous materials.

If San Jacinto wants a squad capable of responding to medical emergencies from another station, Hults said it would cost the city another $1.2 million.

The difference in costs appears to be the salaries for the staffing. The JPA proposal estimates that a fire captain would make $170,000, including benefits. The county’s contract is based on captains costing about $204,000.

Of course, the new JPA board, composed of both the San Jacinto City Council and the IFPD commission, will have to set the actual salaries for all of the JPA staff, including firefighters.