The East County Voters for Equal Protection (ECVEP), a group of residents who are working to find ways to fund the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District without a tax increase, have endorsed Oakley Councilman Doug Hardcastle in his race for Supervisor in District 3, for his support of their efforts.
The group supports reallocation of funds that other local agencies within the district boundaries, currently receive in property tax revenue. The fire protection district includes Oakley, Brentwood, Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Byron and Knightsen, as well as the unincorporated areas of Clayton along Marsh Creek and Morgan Territory Roads.
“This can has been kicked down the road too many times,” said Rob Broocker, the group’s leader. “Doug recognizes that it’s time the local officials sat down and worked things out.”
At a recent meeting with Hardcastle at a closed fire station, in Discovery Bay, Broocker, a Santa Clara firefighter, painting contractor and Discovery Bay resident said, “Of two Discovery Bay Fire Stations one is closed. Even with a tax increase the second one can’t be guaranteed to be open, according to County Assessor Gus Kramer. At the same Discovery Bay Town Council meeting David Piepho said it will never be open due to the lack of funding.”
The group has met with board members and spoken before their meetings, as well communicated with other community leaders like Hardcastle, to get them to consider a reallocation plan instead of a third attempt at a tax increase.
“I appreciate the support of the East County Voters and look forward to continuing to work with them to find a solution to improving fire protection, without another tax increase,” Hardcastle said. “Our number one priority is safety of our families. You have to take this personal. You have to ask yourself, what if it was my house on fire or one of my family members in an accident? We deserve quicker response times for all of us.”
Speaking of the only current ECCFP board member who is also a candidate in the District 3 Supervisor’s race, Broocker stated “Steve Barr is not ready to step up and be a Supervisor if he can’t handle the job on the fire district board.”
At a candidates’ forum in Discovery Bay, Wednesday night, Barr said, “There is a task force that’s been formed. The first step the fire board has taken is do a study to find out what is the adequate number of fire stations in this district. That study, came in with a nine-station model. I think we’re on the right track. I’m hopeful this next measure or however it comes to you will be right.”
“We’ve had enough studies,” he responded. “People do not want to raise their taxes again. They tried it twice, already. It’s ridiculous they even tried it twice. We just need to learn how to spend our money properly.”
While the ECVEP is asking all the agencies within the bounds of the fire district to pitch in, Hardcastle only supports reallocating funds from the cities of Oakley and Brentwood, and the County, like was done with one-time money to re-open the fire station in Knightsen.
“I feel the only ones that have the ability to approve reallocation of money are our councils and the county,” he stated. “We just did it by funding the Knightsen fire station to get them open for 2017.”
That process was explained by another member of the group.
“When the self-appointed Task Force made their initial report to the fire board on October 21, 2015, they recommended emergency funding to open one fire station for a limited period of time,” stated Bryan Scott, a member of ECVEP. “They sought and obtained one-time funding from the cities of Brentwood and Oakley as well as the county.”
“The Task Force allocated the contributions from the cities and the county based on call volume to their respective areas,” he continued. “This came out to 49% for the city of Brentwood, 28% for the city of Oakley, and 23% for the county.”
“Using these same allocation percentages to increase fire district funding by $7.8 million would mean Brentwood would contribute $3,822,000, Oakley would contribute $2,184,000, and the county $1,794,000,” Scott explained.
Brentwood will pay a larger portion for two reasons. First, because they have a larger population than Oakley. Second, they receive a greater percentage of property tax, 16% than Oakley does at just 7%. Plus, they used part of funds set aside for fire protection on their police force, instead.
“We need the cities and county to pitch in to make this happen and in a fair way,” Hardcastle added. “It’s time to get this done.”
District 3 includes all of Oakley, Brentwood, Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Byron, Knightsen and most of Antioch in East County, as well as Blackhawk, Diablo and Camino Tassajara in the San Ramon Valley. The election is June 7. For more information about Doug Hardcastle, visit www.doughardcastle.com or call the Campaign Headquarters at (925) 755-5053.