The City of Clayton's only fire station will lose its staff and become a part time operation as a cost-saving measure, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday.
After nearly six hours of testimony, the board of supervisors, acting as the Board of Directors of the Contra Costa Fire Protection District, unanimously agreed to scale back or shutter four fire stations, including Station 11 on Center Avenue in Clayton as well as stations in Martinez, Walnut Creek and Lafayette.
The closures and reshuffling, scheduled for next month, will save $3 million. The district is facing a $17 million deficit, and has spent its reserves.
Clayton's fire station has three full-time staff members and serves the City of Clayton as well as parts of Concord and the Clayton Valley area. In the new year, the station will be operated from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. every day by staff from the Crystal Ranch station in Concord. Equipment will be pooled.
The supervisor's vote comes after voters failed to pass Measure Q, a $75-a-year parcel tax that would have prevented the closure of the stations, in November.
Supervisors heard again from Fire Chief Daryl Louder, who presented further information Tuesday after supervisors delayed a vote on the closure last week. They also heard from residents who urged them to keep the stations opened in their towns.
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff noted that the Clayton station closure at 6500 Center Ave. would leave that city without a fire station.
"There is no right solution," she said. "There are those who say we can't afford the current system. I say we can't afford not to have the current system."
Martinez resident Cheryll Grover said that station closures should be based on where the most votes against Measure Q came from. Closing Station 12 in Martinez, at 1240 Shell Ave., would endanger residents living near the Shell refinery, most of whom are in older homes that burn faster, she said.
"I'm concerned about emergency medical response issues," said Leonard Carp of Walnut Creek, who lives near Station 4. "A lot of people in our area are retired or older."
He joined several other residents in supporting the idea of saving money by reducing the staff of each station to two firefighters instead of the current three.
That was a plan endorsed by several Lafayette residents, including Mayor Mike Anderson, who urged the board to use that city as a test to try the two-person per station model. Station 16 at 4007 Las Aribis Ave., the Lafayette station targeted for closure, has been shuttered since June. Anderson said that it could mean four staff in the other two stations, until Station 16 is reopened.
Louder and other firefighters balked at the notion of two firefighters per station, saying that it would endanger the crews and reduce response time even more than the four station closure.
"We have to close stations," Supervisor Federal Glover said. "It's not what we want to do, and certainly not what any of us signed up to do...but we have to live within our means and we have to do it in a way we feel we're go to be able to give the best quality service possible."
"Frankly, it's been hard to get folks and community members at the table and to participate in solutions," said Supervisor Mary Piepho. "Now everyone wants to solve the problem. It’s been here a lot longer than the last couple of weeks."
"I hope as we go forward that you will consider Lafayette's proposal for a two-person station," Supervisor Candace Anderson told Louder.
The fire chief reminded the board that, absent new sources of revenue, additional fire stations will need to be closed in the next few years.
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