During the La Verne City Council’s preliminary budget study session yesterday, May 17, the Council elected not to move forward with pursuing Mayor Tim Hepburn’s proposal to utilize approximately $1.5 million from the City’s reserve funds to expand La Verne Fire Department (LVFD) staffing.
While the Mayor was disappointed that Council did not move forward with his proposal, the rest of Council agreed that these services are important while acknowledging the need to find a sustainable funding source. Mayor Pro Tem Muir Davis expanded on this saying, “Part of our duty to residents is being fiscally responsible. Relying on a one-time funding source like reserves for resources that would be an ongoing expense could position the City for future financial hardship. We rely on reserve funds to get us through those rainy days, similar to what we saw with COVID-19 this past year.”
Additionally, to allow for more strategic decision making that will support the La Verne community’s long term fire and emergency services needs, the Council made the following decisions:
- Include funds in the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget to pursue a Standards of Response Coverage (SOC) report, which takes a comprehensive look at all aspects of an agency’s fire service and medical response capabilities and makes specific recommendations on how to best utilize resources to meet actual community needs across all aspects of the organization. “We need to operate on facts and appropriate data in order to move forward in a meaningful and thoughtful way,” said Council Member Wendy M. Lau. “The SOC is critical to understanding what we need to meet our community’s needs, and from there we can pursue a sustainable way to fund these services for the long-term.”
- Maintain plans to reopen LVFD Fire Station 3 on Esperanza Drive with paramedic and ambulance transport services. The City is currently recruiting for two paramedic positions who will operate from this station. “Approximately 85% of all LVFD calls are medical, highlighting the need to prioritize filling these two open paramedic positions rather than adding fire services personnel,” added Council Member Rick Crosby.
- Continue recruitment for a permanent fire chief. Interviews for a new fire chief are scheduled to begin this week. Council Member Robin Carder wants La Verne to maintain its own fire department and is confident that filling this position is a critical step to this process saying, “Once a permanent fire chief is on board, this leadership position will be vital for navigating the best path forward for La Verne’s fire and emergency services and letting us know what LVFD needs.”
The City previously engaged a third-party consultant to evaluate a report provided by LA County Fire on the services they could provide to La Verne and the associated costs, as well as to conduct preliminary analysis of the City’s current fire operations (LVFireStudy.org). Based on what was provided in this report, the Council requested that LA County Fire provide the City with fire services contract terms for review and consideration, as well as conduct a detailed analysis of La Verne’s current resources to determine the costs of conversion facilities and equipment.
It is important to note, however, that at their February 16, 2021 meeting, the La Verne City Council determined that, if LA County’s fire services contract terms are favorable, the decision to move forward with these services will need to be ratified by La Verne voters during the June 2022 election before being finalized.
The discussion of the City’s fire and emergency services will continue, and updates will be brought to Council in the coming months as additional analysis and information becomes available.