Members of the Tracy Firefighters Local 3355 political action committee handed out fliers addressing a Sept. 11 vote by the Mountain House Community Services District Board of Directors to terminate the existing fire service contract by 2015.
According to Joel Fell, treasurer of Local 3355’s political action committee, the flier was meant to give residents “all of the facts” regarding the contract termination.
“Our intent of the flier was to bring attention to the issue,” Fell said during a telephone interview on Monday, Oct. 21. “We didn’t want to scare anybody. Our goal was simply to make everybody aware of the potential contractual issues that would happen. We wanted to remain completely transparent about the issue.”
The flier spoke the present quick response by the fire department, the importance of having a full-time local paramedic engine and the firefighters’ commitment to serving the Mountain House community.
“We are your neighbors,” the flier stated. “We believe in this community and want to continue serving you. If you believe, like us, that public safety is too important to be left to chance, please call the Mountain House CSD today and let them know.”
Fell said it is the union’s belief that the board did not have all the facts when it voted to end the contract.
Mountain House General Manager Janice McClintock told the board of directors on Sept. 11 that the only way to review the contract between the community services district and the fire authority was to give two years’ notice of termination plans.
She told the board she found “irregularities” in the fire contract following an audit by the Stockton-based auditing firm of Croce & Co.
McClintock also told directors on the night of the vote that Mountain House was paying too much for its fire service and they should renegotiate the contract.
She said Mountain House was paying 15.8 percent of the total service bill for the Tracy Fire Department, while receiving less than 6 percent of the calls for service.
Fell said firefighters understood that the board was trying to save money and commended the directors on their fiscal diligence, but he said terminating the fire contact would cost the district more money, not less.
He said the contract states that upon termination, the district must pay the fire authority about $6 million to buy back the fire station and equipment.
“We think the vote might have been different if (the board was) provided all the facts,” he said. “We feel there are other ways to renegotiate the contract other than terminate it.”
Board President Celeste Farron said she believed it might be the firefighters who were misinformed. Farron said the firefighters “provide a great service” but the “contract is old.”
“My feeling is we looked at the contract; it’s old and stale; it’s from 2003,” she said. “It needs to be up-to-date so it’s fair and just to all. I know we don’t want to get rid of public safety. We’re just looking to renegotiate the contract.”
Tracy Rural Fire Authority has provided fire service to the community of Mountain House since 2002, according to Tracy Fire Department Chief Al Nero.
Negotiating teams from the community services district and the fire authority plan to meet next week to discuss ways to continue the contract, Nero said.
“Our expectations are that all parties will negotiate in good faith,” he said. “I’m anxious to get it going and I’m anxious to get it done.”
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.