Calif. City Mulls Outsourcing Fire Dept. to Save Money



The San Miguel Fire District board is considering outsourcing as a way to deal with a $1.3 million budget shortfall.

The move comes amid allegations of lavish spending and excessive salaries and benefits for administrators, which have some community members outraged.

"I think it's gotten a little too big for its britches, and as far as I'm concerned, it's not a fire station anymore, it's a corporation," said Joanne Massey, whose family members have been firefighters for decades.

Massey added, "[Fire Chief Augie Ghio] is the big CEO and when they want to have a budget cut they're going to cut the little guy."

She said she is furious about the board's plan to reduce medical insurance for retirees, but she said it is part of the bigger problem: a district that is squandering the taxpayers? money on expensive new fire stations, equipment that is not needed and perks for administrators.

Ghio, who takes home a paycheck in excess of $174,000 per year, told 10News he and the board are trying to do what is in the best interest of the community. Ghio said exploring outsourcing is just one idea that the board is looking at to save money.

"We're not saying we're going out and contracting services," he said. "All the board and my administration are saying is we're gathering the facts. What are the options out there? What is it going to cost? What is it going to look like, taste like and feel like? Let's evaluate it and make the best decision possible."

10News has learned that Cal Fire is crunching the numbers in anticipation of making an offer to take over San Miguel's fire protection.

"What we look at is cost-effectiveness: can we deliver the same service delivery that San Miguel did?" said Cal Fire Captain Mike Mohler.

Mohler said because Cal Fire is a statewide organization it sometimes works to a city's financial advantage to buy their services but not always. The city of San Carlos decided to keep its own fire department after learning Cal Fire coverage would actually cost them more than they were already paying.

The San Miguel Fire District board has set March 9 as the deadline for outsourcing bids. Once the bids are in, they can decide to accept one or reject the whole idea.


Do you have more information about this story? Click here to contact usCopyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.