Garden Grove

“Contingency plan” for fire service backed

CONTINGENCY PLANS to keep the Garden Grove Fire Department in case negotiations break down with the Orange County Fire Authority were supported at Tuesday night’s city council meeting (GGFD photo).

By Jim Tortolano

On his final full night as a member of the Garden Grove City Council, typically quiet Councilman Kris Beard raised his voice, underlining the idea that the city had not quite made a final decision to replace the municipal fire department with the Orange County Fire Authority.

Beard’s motion on Tuesday night to place the matter on the agenda of the Dec. 11 meeting for discussion was defeated on a 4-3 vote. Beard was supported by council colleagues Kim Nguyen and Thu-Ha Nguyen. He wanted to reopen the matter of the increased cost of making the switch.

But all the council members who voted against the motion nevertheless endorsed the concept of the city creating a contingency plan to keep the GGFD in case negotiations with the OCFA broke down.

KRIS BEARD, Garden Grove City Council member (Tribune file photo).

“I think the numbers have been fudged,” said Beard, who was the sole dissenting vote at the Nov. 13 meeting at which the council originally voted to begin talks with the countywide agency. He suggested that a third party mediate between the estimates given the city’s finance department – up to $10 million over 10 years – and those of the Garden Grove Firefighters Association – of about $275,000 over that same period.

At issue was a “sensitivity analysis” submitted on Nov. 13 that projected labor costs over a decade, with variables of increases ranging from 1 to 5 percent annually.

Beard fenced verbally with Councilman Phat Bui, who said, “We should not bring up something which we have already voted on.”

Kim Nguyen’s chief concern was the issue of a contingency plan, which she envisioned as an alternate proposal for fire and paramedic services. When the motion was defeated, she said. “You just voted against having a contingency plan.”

But other council members spoke in favor of a backup, even though it was not specifically included in the motion approved at the Nov. 13 meeting.

City Manager Scott Stiles told the council that the city had received no specific contract proposals from the OCFA, and that the municipal staff was proceeding with planning for the alternative of keeping the GGFD. Jones echoed that. “I’ve always been in favor of a contingency plan,” he said. “But two things we’re not going to do is hire a new fire chief or enter into negotiations with the firefighters’ union,” he said.

The Garden Grove Firefighters Association has been the main force advocating for the OCFA to take over the duties now performed by the GGFD.  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.

But Jones added that the contingency plan would not be viewed as a side-by-side alternative to the OCFA’s contract proposal and that it would only come into play if a deal could not be struck with the OCFA.

 

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