Redwood City will hire 19 San Carlos firefighters, with an average salary hike of 13 percent and better benefits, under the new contract for the cities’ hybrid fire department coming before both city councils Monday night.
Two years after San Carlos dumped its joint department with Belmont and entered into an agreement with Redwood City for primarily management services, the city wants to expand its arrangement with hopes a more attractive compensation package will keep firefighters from leaving.
If the two cities approve the five-year contract, Redwood City will hire 13 paramedic firefighters, five fire captains and one emergency preparedness and outreach coordinator. The San Carlos employees will be placed in the Redwood City salary brackets which will result in salary increases with an average of 13 percent. The workers will move back to a pension plan of 3 percent at 55, meaning they can receive 3 percent of their salary for every year of service at the age of 55.
The full-service contract also includes truck service, fire prevention, code enforcement and investigation, emergency preparedness and training. Either city can pull out of the contract within the first year with written notice.
“This is not a move for cost savings but it still costs less than what we would be spending with the Belmont and San Carlos department ... It’s sort of a middle road,” said San Carlos Assistant City Manager Brian Moura.
Prior to dissolution, the city paid $6.3 million for fire service with Belmont with projections of spending $8 million in 2013 and $8.2 million in 2014. The proposed amended contract calls for San Carlos to pay an estimated $5.6 million the first year for full service.
The significant savings the city has from either outsourcing or changing several city services like fire and parks maintenance is what allows the contract’s expansion, Moura said.
The joint venture also has the potential for more savings in the future by consolidating fire stations on Alameda de las Pulgas and Jefferson Avenue into one station to be constructed. San Mateo County is also interested in having the two cities assume emergency response to the Fire Station 19 area on Edmonds Road. Doing so could save each city up to $400,000.
But while cost savings prompted San Carlos’ past decisions on fire service, the current proposal is largely about staff retention. In July 2012, the fire chief said staffing was at “a tipping point” because of the high number of vacancies. Between Oct. 1, 2011 and July 9, 2012, the department had four resignations of which three were returned from the now-defunct Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department. The hiring of lateral firefighters has been difficult and the chief doesn’t recommended hiring laid-off firefighters because they tend “to move around more often,” according to the staff report.
Redwood City Manager Bob Bell and Fire Chief Jim Skinner, in a report to the Redwood City Council, called the expanded contract an example of the city’s strategy to make government operations more effective.
The San Carlos City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday, June 24 at City Hall, 600 Elm St., San Carlos. The Redwood City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday, June 24 at City Hall, 1017 Middlefield Road, Redwood City.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102