Thursday, April 02, 2009

City of Monterey Assistant City Manager Fred Cohn's Remarks Encapsulating the Proposed Fire Protection Services Contract with the City of Monterey

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.


James said...

I wish the city of Carmel had Fred Cohn as our city manager. He makes more sense and tells it like it is in 4 minutes while Rich Guillen has never made sense or communicated much of anything of importance to us in nine years.

RSW said...

This is very confusing. The city pulled out of fire talks with Monterey over a year ago, but the City Administrator would like us to believe he has been actively involved negotiating a contract. The Public Safety Manager writes the staff report, but does not give his best advice or recommendation. What are we paying him for, not to give us his advice to the council made up of people without direct fire protection experience? Are our city representatives and employees committed to a public safety fire solution or are they stalling and playing games with our lives?

Anonymous said...

Village Blogger and others, you are missing some very important information on the issue of fire protection services. Visit the April 2 budget workshop video on the city's website and listen to some concerned citizens. They are asking some very enlightening and relevant questions. They ask the city to take a step back and fund an independent, in-depth analysis of all possible options for fire protection services in an equally balanced, unbiased way. From inside information circulating around, we would be giving away too much to the city of Monterey and would have no control over costs or standards of protection, etc. The cost of going with Monterey may be too great. The city could return to a fully-staffed, stand along fire department or could contract with Cal Fire. Carmel is surrounded by three different fire districts, all of whom contract with Cal Fire. If you can leave the personalities out of this (i.e., the firemen and their union representatives)then we could get to what is really good for Carmel in the long run. Monterey is going through fiscal changes and they could at some time in the future decide to shut down our firehouse if they needed to reduce their force. The most important issue to the citizens of Carmel is response time. The citizens of Carmel in the comments made on April 2nd hopefully have given councilmembers pause. Watch the video (you don't have to watch the whole thing, just toward the beginning.) Don't be flattered and whoo-ed by Monterey's full court press. They are not telling the whole story. They want to balance their budget on Carmel's back.

Anonymous said...

I think you will find a lot of people in the community probably would like to return to having a fully staffed fire station with a chief to run the place. Monterey dangles the contract in front of Carmel as an all or nothing deal and it is based on what Pacific Grove agreed to, in their desperation. PG -- Now there is a city in trouble . . . Monterey plans to approach Seaside with an offer of a joint powers agreement sometime in the future. How do you think that will make Carmel and Pacific Grove look as they have given up all control of their departments and Seaside city fathers would be in the driver's seat with Monterey?

Anonymous said...

I am a friend of the Carmel firefighters. I think it is very disingenuous for some Carmelites to now call for an independent, unbiased fire services study on all the options. The firefighters themselves have told me they know the city of Monterey has been providing services to us that Carmel has not been paying for. Our city administator was and is for this contract before Mayor Sue McCloud put pressure on him to reverse his opinion. Our mayor and council have not proactively addressed this situation, even though they have had over a year and more since contracting with Monterey seven years ago to lay it all out for public debate and discussion.
By the way, there was a study done, it was the Citygate study. I would ask those Carmelites calling for another study this late in the day to review that study. Among its conclusions was stand alone fire departments for small cities are not viable options and Carmel-by-the-Sea would stand to benefit the most from a consolidation with PG and Monterey Fire Depts.
Just another study is a stalling tactic and proves Mayor Sue McCloud has provided absolutely no leadership on this issue, except to lead Monterey on and then expect to continue with a contract which cannot continue as is.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote,"If you can leave the personalities out of this (i.e., the firemen and their union representatives)then we could get to what is really good for Carmel in the long run." Oh really? Are you serious. I, for one, am not for not supporting a contract the Carmel firefighters have endorsed. Unless Anonymous is a fireman with some findings showing what is really good for Carmel is not what the firefighters want, I say support our Carmel firefighters, they know best!

Anonymous said...

With regard to Carmel contracting "with Monterey seven years ago"... didn't Carmel contract with Pacific Grove for administrative services only, since Carmel was unwilling to replace fire chief Bill Hill after he retired? I believe that when Pacific Grove decided to consolidate and merge with Monterey, Carmel for some reason backed out of the negotations, and that's when Monterey started to cover for Carmel. That happened just within the last year or so, didn't it?