SUPERVISOR DIANNE JACOB
DATE: May 18, 2004
CONTACT STEVE SCHMIDT AT 619-531-4766 or 619-206-9108
COUNTY AIMS TO BRING TOGETHER REGION'S FRACTURED FIRE, EMERGENCY AGENCIES
SAN DIEGO - The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to move toward a more regional system of firefighting and emergency services and away from the existing system of more than 60 separate agencies that currently respond to fires and other emergencies throughout the County.
Citing gross disparities in funding and a lack of cohesiveness among agencies, Chairwoman Dianne Jacob introduced the proposal, which calls on top regional firefighting experts and the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to develop a model fire protection and emergency medical services system in the County. In addition, the Board agreed to convene a small group of fire experts to craft a funding proposal for such a system.
"We don't yet know the exact shape or structure that this proposed entity will take, but we do know that our current system is broken," Jacob said. "The October fires showed us that our region lacks continuity and our region lacks resources. Today, we've taken a monumental step toward significant and lasting changes to the region's fire and emergency services system."
Jacob identified the County's unincorporated area as the most splintered in the region when it comes to fire and emergency services. She convinced her colleagues to agree to draft a ballot measure that would gauge public support for merging fire departments in those areas. If the draft is approved, it will appear on the ballots of unincorporated area voters in November.
"This important measure will let the people in fire prone areas, particularly people who've experienced wildfires in the past, tell us if they are happy with the status quo or if they want change," Jacob said.
Jacob acknowledged that one of the biggest challenges regionalization advocates face is funding. She pointed to existing property taxes as a steady, sure-fire stream of funding for a proposed regional entity.
"This most critical area of public safety deserves nothing less than long-term stable funding," she said.