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Supervisors OK Ag Event Fee Waiver, Fire Protection Contract

April 12, 2012

The Placer County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a fee waiver program for agricultural events, and a fire services contract with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).

The fee waiver will allow promoters of agricultural events in Placer County to avoid the current $425 fee that is typically required for a permit for a temporary outdoor event. Planned events will still need to go through the Planning Services approval process, but Planning Services will be able to waive the fee. Staff was asked to return to the Board and provide information on the process, including case studies and information on what types of events will qualify for the fee waiver.

The approval of the $8.6 million CAL FIRE contract will provide the county with fire protection in those unincorporated areas of the county that are not covered by 12 independent fire protection districts. This contract is slightly less than the previous year’s contract. The contract pays for 62 paid employees who staff eight fire stations around the clock in Alta, Colfax, Bowman, North Auburn, Ophir, Lincoln, the Sunset Industrial Area and Dry Creek. Additionally, 100 volunteer firefighters also work out of the eight stations and six volunteer stations.

Both the Dry Creek and North Auburn Ophir Fire zones of benefit are expected to have revenue shortfalls for fiscal year 2012/13. Both will use reserves to cover the shortfalls. However, North Auburn Ophir has a structural defect in its funding and it will continue to operate at a deficit unless costs are reduced or income is increased.

To repair the shortfall, the County Board of Supervisors agreed this past January to give the communities of North Auburn, Ophir and Lone Star an opportunity to decide their future fire service level by putting Measure D on the June 5, 2012 ballot. If passed by a super majority (66.7 percent) of the fire service zone’s voters, this will increase fire assessments for the zone and prevent the use of staffing reductions to meet the deficit. If Measure D is not successful, CAL FIRE has been informed formally that they are to begin service reductions by January 1, 2013 and create $285,000 in services savings. It is expected that this reduction will result in the loss of one full engine company in the North Auburn Ophir Fire service area.

“The reduction of an engine company in North Auburn Ophir would absolutely impact our response times,” said Randy Smith, Deputy Fire Chief for Nevada-Placer Fire, while addressing the Board on Tuesday.

For FY 2013/14 and beyond, CAL FIRE is expected reduce costs by $570,000 annually if Measure D is not successful. Smith said Placer County Fire has not yet identified where the cuts will be, but said that if the ballot measure fails, the cuts will affect the level of service his agency can provide.