California Fire District's Fate To Be Decided

Tonight, the Los Osos Community Services District board had planned to decide whether CDF/County Fire will replace South Bay Fire Department services.

However, the contract isn't completed, county Fire Chief Dan Turner said Wednesday.

"For the most part it's ready to go," Turner said, but "lawyerese" in the contract concerning insurance and other legal issues has to be confirmed by both parties' attorneys before the board can approve a final contract.

Contracting with the county agency would save the district about $300,000, according to a draft of the agreement.

District General Manager Bruce Buel and CDF has drawn up a $1.8 million contract that details how and when the agency would take over for South Bay Fire.

Gordon Hensley, district board vice president and chairman of its Emergency Services Committee, said Wednesday that the panel voted to "accept in concept the proposed agreement," but confirmed that CDF and the district's lawyers were "still haggling."

Buel said that district staff will suggest to the board that it meet on July 15 to vote on the contract.

If the board approves the contract as proposed, CDF would take over for South Bay Fire on Oct. 1. After that, the contract goes to the county Board of Supervisors for approval.

The normal daily staffing of the South Bay Fire Station, which is now four full-time firefighters, would change to one fire captain, one fire engineer and one reserve firefighter under the CDF contract.

Staffing would have been reduced even without a CDF contract because voters in a May mail-in election rejected Measure G, which would have more than tripled Los Osos' fire tax.

Officials said the increase was needed if the district was going to stop tapping reserves to maintain current service levels.

"It's unfortunate that we're going to have to go a lower level of service," Hensley said, "but given the situation we find ourselves in following the vote, it looks like a pretty good deal for Los Osos."

According to the proposed CDF contract, "at least one of the on-duty staff will be a paramedic at all times and a second paramedic shall be on duty 80 percent of the time."

Seven full-time employees would remain at the South Bay station, and five would be transferred elsewhere in the county.

Among those set for transfer are South Bay fire Chief Bruce Pickens, who would become a division chief at CDF/County Fire headquarters near San Luis Obispo. Administrative assistant Laura Brown would work for CDF in fire prevention education.