The Coastside Fire Protection District board cut short a regular meeting Wednesday night, adjourning without hearing a report prepared by Chief John Ferreira that contains financial information and related public comments.
Ferreira's report, in part, serves as a response to cost estimates produced by a legal consultant who suggested a stand-alone department was financially feasible. Ferreira’s report is available online at coastsidefire.org.
Among other things, the report touches on salary and benefit cost differences between CalFire's existing model and the consultant's proposed model. It says that the consultant's model was based on "several invalid assumptions" about CalFire's contract, resulting in miscalculations in various personnel and overtime costs. Ferreira also suggests the consultants overlooked other potential costs.
The chief’s report also tracks CalFire achievements. "This is what you'd grade (the services of CalFire) against," Ferreira said after the meeting.
Ferreira claims that CalFire only billed for actual cost — $5,040,000 for the last fiscal year. That is significantly lower than the originally budgeted $5,553,151. These savings, Ferreira said, can be used toward paying down debt, equipment purchases and other uses.
The details had been requested at previous fire board meetings, but Ferreira said the reports hadn’t been finalized until the fourth quarter concluded on July 1. But Director Mike Alifano lamented that he was "done" with arguing and didn't intend to let Ferreira address his report that night. Board President Doug Mackintosh declared the meeting to be adjourned and some members of the board and audience were left incredulous.
"I'm so shocked. I'm so appalled," said director Ginny McShane later. During the meeting, she said that hearing Ferreira's presentation was a matter of respect. Director Gary Burke apologized to the chief, stating that he was "embarrassed as hell."
People arrived at 7:30 p.m. for a meeting that was supposed to cover a variety of issues in addition to Ferreira's report.
Proposals for services, such as those provided by a fire marshal as the board transitions away from CalFire, were heard from representatives of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District and the South San Francisco Fire Department.
Director Gary Riddell said he was appreciative of both agencies' efforts and in favor of Menlo Park's offer.
The proposals were presented two days after the district announced that Clayton Jolley would be assuming his old fire marshal duties. Jolley had been reassigned elsewhere within CalFire.
"I found the timing suspect," said Riddell. He is concerned that Jolley will be able to resign at any time in future, leaving the Coastside without a fire marshal again.
McShane suggested a meeting curfew, which will also be discussed later.