By Bryan Scott
The Brentwood City Council has an opportunity coming up, an opportunity to take actions that will improve the safety of the over 60,000 current, and future, city residents.
East County is suffering from a dire public safety emergency due to the underfunding of the regional fire district, the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD). The district once had as many as eight stations, but now there are only three, with nine firefighters on duty at any time.
This meager force serves a region of over 249 square-miles, with over 115,000 residents.
Brentwood is conducting a Strategic Planning Workshop/Special City Council Meeting on November 16 and 17 at the Community Center, 35 Oak Street. Contact Diane Williams, Executive Assistant, City Manager’s Office, at email@example.com for the agenda and further details.
At this workshop the Council will be working on the city’s Strategic Plan. The current Strategic Plan includes six Focus Areas, with 19 Goals under these focus areas. Focus Areas include Infrastructure, Economic Development, Land Use Planning, Community and Neighborhood Services, Fiscal Stability and Operational Management, and Public Safety.
It is during the Public Safety discussions that the City Council can take action to improve the safety of all city residents by deciding to move forward with the investigation and acquisition of additional ambulance hours, through an addendum to the existing County ambulance contract.
The City’s General Plan, which sets the vision for Brentwood, specifies that all emergency calls receive a three-to-five-minute response. Due to budget cuts and fire station closures the 90% response times provided by ECCPFD for Brentwood are about ten minutes, according to ECCFPD’s September Operations Report.
The global standards agency for the fire services industry is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). After considerable scientific research their NFPA 1710 Standard suggests response times of four or five minutes.
The City Council recognizes the problem. Earlier this year a Council Fire and Medical Services Ad Hoc Committee recommended that the City spend over $1 million per year for three years to keep a fourth fire station open. During March and April this Committee worked to move this proposal forward, getting ECCFPD Board approval for the action.
But bowing to a request from the firefighters’ union, and other political pressures, on April 25 the City Council reversed itself. The issue died without a motion.
The previous Strategic Planning Workshop was held in September, 2015. That session, too, was held over several days at the Community Center, and the first topic discussed was funding for the fire district. The Council agreed to set aside $1 million to investigate the situation and do something.
While there has been extensive investigation in the intervening years, nothing has been done to alter the structural funding problem that puts ECCFPD at the lowest allocation rate of all fire districts in the County, even though East County is experiencing the greatest residential and commercial growth.
Residents of Brentwood and East County will have an opportunity to speak at the beginning of the Workshop. Prior to the Workshop residents should contact their City Council, by phone, by email, or by letter, and tell them that Public Safety ought to be the number one priority of local government.
Yes, engaging with regional transportation partners is important, but is it more important than saving lives?
Yes, maintaining and operating parks, trails and recreation facilities is important, but is it as important as getting an ambulance to a heart attack victim, in time to save a life?
Brentwood residents should make their opinions heard.
The City Council needs to fund an increase in ambulance hours.
It’s what they were elected to do.
Scott is a Brentwood resident and Co-Chair of East County Voters for Equal Protection, a non-partisan citizens action committee striving to improve funding for the ECCFPD. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 925-418-4428. The group’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyVoters/.