Garden Grove

Switch to OCFA could add $15m in red ink

GARDEN GROVE firefighters in action (Dooley photo).

By Jim Tortolano

The cost of replacing the Garden Grove Fire Department with services from the Orange County Fire Authority could amount to an additional $15.3 million in expenses over a 10-year period.

At a study session of the city council on Tuesday, Ann Eifert, senior administrative analyst for the City of Garden Grove, presented a report which indicated that if the OCFA took over fire and paramedic services, there would be a savings to the city of $1,174,509 in the first year, but red ink in every year following.

Under a scenario in which OCFA’s charges to the city increased 2.92 percent annually, the total additional cost to Garden Grove would reach $14,526,255 by the fiscal year 2027-28. If the costs rose to 4.5 percent (the maximum allowed under the proposed OCFA deal), that number would rise to $15,373,970.

The city council will consider the issue at its Sept. 11 meeting, although a final decision could be postponed to a later date.

In OCFA’s original plan, while the staffing level in Garden Grove would remain the same as with the GGFD, there would be more paramedics available. 

However, on Tuesday, Garden Grove Fire Chief Tom Schultz rolled out a reorganization plan which would allow the city to equal that at a lower cost. His proposal is to eliminate one captain position and one engineer post and add two paramedics, matching the OCFA model.

The OCFA provides services for 23 cities in the county, including the neighboring communities of Cypress, Stanton, Westminster and Santa Ana. It’s headquartered in Irvine.

An alternative cost analysis from the Garden Grove Firefighters Association which argues that the switch would instead save the city money was mentioned at the meeting, but details were not available.

The issue has been before the council since March, and at a meeting of the city council, OCFA Battalion Chief Brad Phoenix said the city could save $2.5 million in the first year, and $23 million through the fiscal year of 2034-5.

However, at a meeting in July, a city report stated that the switch would instead cost the city $1.64 million more in the first year and $1.99 million in the second, with pension liabilities accounting for much of the difference.

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