Closing and selling the Baker Street firehouse to save money and cut costs is out of the question for Fire Chief Mike Morgan as it would reduce response time and create long term problems for the department.
The proposal to sell the firehouse is one of 19 suggestions the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. came up with to help the city close the projected $16.4-million budget deficit it is facing next year.
"It would increase paramedic response time into those residential areas south and north of Baker," Morgan said. "There are a lot of residential and a lot of apartments in that area and we don't want to increase response time in those areas."
Morgan said he discussed the idea with City Manager Allan Roeder and they are both in agreement that closing the firehouse would not be in the best interest of the city in the long run. The Baker firehouse houses four firefighters and one engine.
In a response letter to the employees assn., Bobby Young, budget and research officer, said closing the Baker firehouse would require a reassessment of the fire stations' locations throughout the city.
In their suggestions to cut costs, the employees association lists $173,000 in revenue that the city could bring from selling off the firehouse. The association is suggesting that multiple level housing be developed in place of the firehouse where the city could earn long term property taxes.
Costa Mesa has six fire stations. Prior to its financial crisis, the city had in the works a seventh fire station to keep up with its continuing growth. Eliminating one when another is needed would create problems for the city, especially if major fires break, Morgan said.
As part of saving costs, Costa Mesa fetched a deal with the Firefighters Assn. that reduced the minimum workforce, allowing 12 firefighters to retire early in an effort to net save about $1.1 million a year. Beginning July, that agreement is set to take place and the department will have 28 firefighters and one battalion chief instead of the current 32 and one battalion chief on duty each day. The reduction is already expected to have an impact on the department's response time, Morgan said.
The Fire Department tries to keep its response time to five minutes, Morgan said. Closing the firehouse would no doubt increase it, he said.
Costa Mesa's proposal to lay off or reduce 77 jobs impacts mainly association employees.