Garden Grove

Contract with OCFA goes to city council

GARDEN GROVE fire truck (GGFD photo).

By Jim Tortolano

An historic change in Garden Grove could be coming on Tuesday when the city council considers a contract for fire and paramedic services with the Orange County Fire Authority.

If approved – as expected – the OCFA will replace the 92-year old Garden Grove Fire Department. The 10-year pact would take effect on Aug. 16 at 8 a.m. and basically transfer nearly all the personnel and equipment from the GGFD to the countywide agency.

Contrary to a published news article, the move will not save the city upwards of $3 million annually. Depending on how the impact is viewed, the city will pay anywhere from $2.1 million to $13.3 million more over the course of the contract, according to a city staff report.

“We’re sticking with our numbers,” said City Manager Scott Stiles.

Eric Thorson, spokesman for the Garden Grove Firefighters Assn. Local 2005, is pleased with the proposed deal, which would improve wages and employment options for its members, who have been working without a contract. “It’s been a long road,” he said. Additionally, employment for all GGFD employees would be preserved. “No one’s going to lose a job,” he said.

The first year’s payment will be $1,007,587; for each of the next nine years the charge would be $1,931,500.

Start-up costs to the city for the transition would be a total of $1,136.225, amortized over 10 years into annual payments of $113,623.

The latest estimate by the city is based on a comparison to current city staffing and related expenses and a 3.06 percent increase from OCFA’s original proposal. A lower estimate factoring in potential additional costs, including an assumed annual 5 percent wage increase for firefighters over that time has also been advanced, with a smaller net extra cost to the city in the area of $300,000 claimed.

The principal reasoning behind making the switch includes improved response time, especially for paramedic calls, which comprise the majority of work for a modern fire department. There will be two paramedics on each unit at any time.

Highlights of the agreement include:

  • renumbering the Garden Grove fire stations – now 1 to 7–  to 81 to 86 and 80;
  • placing the Garden Grove city logo on the fire vehicles, along with the OCFA logo;
  • a 10-year contract running to 2030, with any request to withdraw due by 2028;
  • some additional costs to businesses for fire safety inspection, plan checks and similar administrative tasks;
  • the transition of 77 sworn GGPD employees to the OCFA, as well as three other GGFD workers;
  • one OCFA unit currently based in Westminster will be “moved/shared” with Garden Grove;
  • Garden Grove is still responsible for pension and worker’s compensation liability incurred before the transition and will be responsible for unfunded pension costs during its membership in OCFA.

The OCFA Board of Directors – with one member from each community served – voted to approve the contract with Garden Grove on March 28.

The matter was first raised formally in March 2018, when a representative from OCFA told the council that such a move would save the city millions of dollars.

However, an estimate by a city financial analyst indicated the reverse, that the city would endure millions in additional costs. The figure later grew to an estimated $15.3 million over 10 years. Later, factoring in some other issues raised by the GGFA, revised the gap down to $10 million. On Nov. 13, the council voted 6-1 to direct the city manager to negotiate with OCFA for a contract to take over fire and paramedic services.

But on Nov. 27, a motion by then-Councilman Kris Beard to reopen the issue and place it on the Dec. 11 agenda was voted down 4-3.

The complete proposed agreement between the OCFA and the City of Garden Grove is available at:




2 replies »

  1. So, our 1% additional tax on everything we do daily in GG was really for this, and unfunded pension liabilities. Thirty years of hotel bond bondage was simply for naught. Forced community and neighborhood austerity, no money for this, no money for that, no parks, no trees, no sidewalks, no, no, no, yada yada, was a sham. Past leaders simply mis-spoke. For 3 decades.

    Understood. Carry on. Serfs up.

  2. What a shame for Garden Grove. The Garden Grove Fire Union has created such a politically toxic environment that the city is willing to pay more to OCFA just to be rid of their own union. The only real winners in this deal are the Garden Grove fire personnel. They will see their compensation packages soar to new heights as OCFA employees and garden grove taxpayers pick up the tab. Actually, they first voted to tax themselves more and now they get to pay even more for no appreciable improvement in service.

    Ask Santa Ana how well their transition to OCFA worked out for them….their fire costs went through the roof in addition to still having to pay PERS for the unfunded pension liabilities for past Santa Ana fire personnel.

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