LaMont offered Idyllwild
Fire Chief position
As reported in last week’s Town Crier, the Idyllwild Fire Protection District Commission unanimously decided to offer the position of fire chief to current Assistant and Acting Chief Mark LaMont.
Commission President Jerry Buchanan announced the decision after the conclusion of a nearly three-hour-long closed session. It is still subject to the commission and LaMont negotiating a mutually acceptable contract.
Buchanan added, “This was in the best interest of the district.”
During the regular the meeting, the commission covered a variety of topics: the preliminary budget for next fiscal year, a revised abatement ordinance, the dispatch contract with Riverside County and revival of an emergency alarm system for the Hill.
The anticipated revenues for FY 2019-20, which begins July 1, are $2.4 million and projected expenditures total $2.3 million. The District expects a positive general fund balance of about $70,000 when the FY ends.
For FY 2019-20 year, the District is displaying it budget as three parts — firefighting, emergency medical services and mutual aid. Both revenues and expenses are provided for the three activities. The EMS cost is less than the direct revenues for that activity. EMS revenues come largely from direct charges to the individual who is served.
“We are very fire suppression heavy compared to any large metro-complex. They see about 85 percent of revenue from emergency medical,” LaMont told the commission. The “parcel fee” originally approved in 1981 was to support the ambulance costs. Today, IFPD can have five ambulances on duty and cover multiple calls. The $200,000 parcel fee revenue does not cover the full costs. The property tax revenue supports both fire and medical services.
The preliminary budget was approved unanimously.
Through April 30, the current year budget shows a deficit of about $170,000, but IFPD will receive the second portion of its property tax revenue this month. This, with the parcel fee revenue, will be about $300,000. And current cash is about $490,000.
A revised ordinance for correcting the abatement
ures of properties within IFPD was approved at the commission’s May 28 meeting.
The purpose of the abatement process is to create a minimum of a 100-foot defensible space around a structure. Its purpose is to reduce the threat of immediate fire burning the structure and to help firefighters protect it. While defensible space is 100 feet, the first 30 feet from the structure are critical for protection.
Abatement, or protection of structures, is basically a year round effort, but IFPD conducts its inspections in the spring. If a property fails to pass (the requirements are in the ordinance and can be obtain at the Idyllwild Fire Station), IFPD will give the property owner another 30 days to comply. If the property fails the second time, a notice will be sent and the owner given 14 days to comply.
The vast majority of Idyllwild properties pass the inspections and that is improving. LaMont reported that of 3,570 inspections, nearly 86 percent passed the first time. In 2018, the initial pass rate was 80 percent.
If a property fails the third inspection, the new ordinance 01-19 creates a procedure for the department to abate the property for the protection of the community. A “Notice to Abate” will be served on the property owner. The owner has the opportunity to appeal the notice to the IFPD commission, who must review and decide at a regular meeting within 30 days whether to enforce the notice.
The chief can then take action, including the use of private contractor, to abate the property. All of the costs involved in achieving the abatement will be charged to the owner, and may be placed as a lien on the property and placed on the property tax bill.
LaMont suggested alternatives means to abate the failed properties without contracting with a private firm, although there were several qualified local contracts.
“If they [property owners] don’t take care of their property, it’s disgusting to me; the department has to move forward,” said Commissioner Rhonda Andrewson. “If you want to be an idiot, you’ll have to pay.”
When asked if the ordinance needed to be posted for 30 days prior to being effective, LaMont replied, “There is a previous resolution so this does not require prior notice. We will post after it is passed.”
The commission unanimously approved it and Buchanan commented, “Good. It goes into effect tomorrow [May 29].”
The commission also approved a new two-year contract with the county’s fire department for dispatch services. But they questioned LaMont extensively about finding alternative dispatch services that were less costly. And he confirmed that staff would continue that search.
The department and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department met last month to discuss the revival of an emergency alert system for the Hill. LaMont reported that Lt. Alfonso Campa of the Hemet Station supported the idea.
The group, which included Mountain Disaster Preparedness, a WNKI representative and other citizens, was favoring an alert system where the purpose of the alarm is to direct people’s attention to the cell phones, computers or other equipment to get a detail message of the emergency and what actions are needed or appropriate.