By Daniel Borsuk
Contra Costa supervisors plan to revisit a personnel proposal that could boost aircraft rescue and firefighting readiness conditions at the county’s two airports when supervisors reconvene on April 18.
“This item needs more work,” County Administrator David Twa informed supervisors Tuesday upon recommending delaying action on the safety item concerning the county’s two airports: Buchanan Field in Concord and Byron Airport.
But according to Airports Director Keith Freitas, the proposal to create four Airport Safety Officer classifications to replace three 1980’s drafted classifications of Airport Operations Technician, Airport Operations Specialist, and Lead Airport Operations Specialist will bring the airports into compliance with current significantly increased regulatory standards and changes in aircraft rescue and firefighting training, certifications, and protocols.
The proposal will cost the county about $168,809 in extra annual salary and pension expenses because it calls for the creation of four Teamster classified positions, not three classifications as the county currently pays.
Freitas pointed out the four new classifications, may also turn around the county’s “dismal” retention rate among fire rescue personnel.
“Contra Costa County has a retention rate of 60 percent over the last four years,” he told the Contra Costa Herald. “Many candidates simply decline to interview or, if hired, consistently resign their positions after a few years for much higher paying opportunities at other local airports.”
The high turnover has become a financial drain on the Airport Enterprise Fund because training costs exceed $100,000 per employee during their first year of employment.
“The most significant responsibilities of this job were heightened with the recent start of scheduled service by Jet Suite X to Burbank and Las Vegas,” Freitas added. “The new service has upgraded Buchanan Field to an active status commercial service airport.”
Storm Damage Tops $9.5 Million
In other action, supervisors voting 4-0 with supervisor John Gioia absent declared costs associated with damage from the January and February storms will exceed $9.5 million, an initial estimate.
The action was necessary to maintain the county’s eligibility for disaster relief funds to cover emergency storm-related repairs to Alhambra Valley Road, Marsh Creek Road, and Morgan Territory Road.