ABSTRACT: At the Special City Council Meeting on Wednesday, 25 March 2009, City of Monterey Assistant City Manager Fred Cohn gave a presentation encapsulating the major issues involving a proposed fire protection services contract with the City of Monterey. Significantly, the contract model is the contract with the City of Pacific Grove; a contract with the City of Monterey would represent a relationship between the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea and the City of Monterey “where the Monterey Fire Department is extended into this community in a collaborative way.” COMMENTS are made regarding comments made by City Councilman Gerard Rose, City Councilman Ken Talmage, Mayor Sue McCloud and a final comment.
Assistant City Manager Fred Cohn:
"Mayor McCloud, Members of the City Council, thank you, my name is Fred Cohn, I’m the Assistant City Manager of Monterey."
"First in direct response to the mayor’s question, we should have the final agreement in our hands no later than this Monday, so with that we’ll be able to share that all the way around and get any final comments or questions on it."
"Your comments mayor were a good segue to the two thoughts I wanted to leave with you as you contemplate this further. First is to say that, we’re arriving at this point after a journey that’s taken almost four years of discussion and collaboration amongst all of our agencies and it has been a partnership with Carmel-by-the-Sea, with Pacific Grove and with Monterey. We’ve had staff and to some degree policy people involved since the very beginning and we’re at a point now where we’re reaching a major milestone for all of us."
"Two thoughts for you to be thinking about as you contemplate this and look forward to your next discussion, is that first of all, the status quo as we know it today, unfortunately, is not a practical option on a going forward basis. You know that Monterey has been offering division chief and now fire chief and administration services for quite some time, that began a couple of years ago frankly because Carmel-by-the-Sea and Pacific Grove needed immediate support, there were some urgent things that needed tended to, Monterey was in a position to do that, and we did that basically as a good neighbor to provide support, but also knowing that this collaboration was in the works and we were hoping it was going to be fruitful."
"I’ll be honest with you by saying that Monterey is subsidizing the current arrangement and that subsidy or the current arrangement is not something we can continue to the indefinite future, so if Carmel decides to go it alone or go a different path, you need to take that in mind in terms of your staffing for the overhead and command services because that’s something we just can’t keep providing indefinitely."
"Perhaps more importantly, as you look forward, and the city manger certainly knows, the contract as it’s currently defined and the business relationship amongst the partners has been hammered out over the last year and the formulas, and the arrangements, and the cost share is something that both your staff and the Pacific Grove staff participated in with us to arrive at the Agreement with Pacific Grove, and although I am not hear to tell you that we’re not willing to talk, because we are, but I do need to share with the Council that we would be very hard pressed to change the underpinnings of that business relationship because it is the business relationship we already have with Pacific Grove and to do something different with Carmel would create potential inequity and disparity that frankly we just don’t feel comfortable taking on."
"Also saying that, although I know there is a temptation to choose items from that à la carte menu and reject other potential items, these services aren’t packaged that way, what we’re suggesting you participate in is a relationship where the Monterey Fire Department is extended into this community in a collaborative way, and it’s not something we’re able to do on a bit by bit, choose it from the menu kind of basis and we ask you to keep that in mind as you contemplate this further and continue your discussions."
"Be happy to answer any questions. We welcome this opportunity to collaborate with the City. I think there are some tremendous opportunities here and we certainly look forward to continuing the discussion."
(Source: Archived Videos, Special City Council Meeting, March 25, 2009, 01:30:00 – 01:33:42)
• As Assistant City Manager Fred Cohn stated, “Monterey is subsidizing the current arrangement and that subsidy or the current arrangement is not something we can continue to the indefinite future.” In other words, the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea has had a sweetheart deal over the last years; the City then has chronically underfunded the Carmel Fire Department over the last years.
• Apparently, City Councilman Gerard Rose was the only councilmember to discuss his concerns about fire protection services with City Administrator Rich Guillen, Public Safety Director George Rawson, Fire Chief Sam Mazza and Assistant Fire Chief Andrew Miller. To his credit, from this meeting and ensuing discussion, his concerns were addressed and satisfied. Additionally, he understands the contract with Monterey represents a transformation of the Carmel Fire Department and that the overwhelming issue is the potential for “loss of life.”
• While City Councilman Ken Talmage recognizes that the “health and welfare of our constituents is the number one thing we’re responsible for,” his focus on budgeting for the fire protection services contract misses the point; the point is that the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea has chronically underfunded and understaffed the Carmel Fire Department for at least the last nine years and the City Council needs to satisfactorily budget for the Carmel Fire Department with the next City Budget for Fiscal Year 2009/2010.
• Mayor Sue McCloud’s focus on the number of structural fire incidences (6-8/year) in Carmel-by-the-Sea and the estimated damages costs from fire incident reports of $10,000, $27,000 and $8,000, as “that’s nothing, so the cost has been very minor,” completely misses the point; the point is the potential for loss of life now and into the future of residents and/or firefighters from structural fires.
• Finally, if Mayor Sue McCloud fails to follow the proposed time line and place the Final Agreement with the City of Monterey on the April 7, 2007 City Council agenda for a vote of approval by the City Council, then she will be continuing her dereliction of duty record over the last nine years of failing to adequately budget for and fund the Carmel Fire Department. Moreover, it is unconscionable for the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea to have withdrawn from negotiations with the City of Monterey in January 2008 and City Council Members not to have done their “homework” during the 2008 year period and not to have already implemented a permanent solution for the management and operation of the Carmel Fire Department.