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Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors to consider fire protection options

UPDATED 10/22/219:

The Santa Cruz County board of supervisors unanimously approved allowing a vote to decide if County Service Area 48 will receive an increase in property taxes to provide better fire services.

County fire, who’s contracted out by Cal Fire, needs more funding for staffing and equipment for fire services.

County Fire Area 48 currently provides year-round fire protection and emergency services in an area that includes Bonny Doon, Davenport, Loma Prieta, Corralitos, Las Cumbres and the South Skyline area through a contract with Cal Fire. The agency has held neighborhood meetings in those locations to hear concerns and answer questions about fire protection services, emergency medical services and response times.

“In the winter time, the county only has us staff at two people, however the state’s requirement for a safe environment for our work force is to have that third firefighter on the engine to provide a better response to the public as well as a safer environment for our firefighters,” fire chief Ian Larkin said.

The county said County Fire faces challenges that include 25% fewer firefighters today compared to 10 years ago, a declining number of volunteer firefighters and a 22% increase in emergency calls. It said the engines are also at staffing levels that are below what is recommended.

The county estimates the tax to property owners would be roughly $150 more a year which has left Bonny Doon residents with mixed feelings.

“I want to keep this place beautiful to help protect the homes and the families around here I’d pay higher taxes with no problem,” Mark Mooney said.

“I have questions about whether what they’re actually proposing to do with the money will actually help our situation or not,” Diane West-Bourke said.

The tax would add more than a $1.5 million annually for the fire service. Now that it’s approved by the board of supervisors it will go to a mail in ballot within the next 45 days.

There will be a public hearing and then a reveal of the vote on January 14. To pass, the vote will need to be more than 50%.

PREVIOUS STORY: The County of Santa Cruz announced that the Board of Supervisors will consider a report on fire protection and emergency medical response services on Tuesday.

County Fire Area 48 currently provides year-round fire protection and emergency services in an area that includes Bonny Doon, Davenport, Loma Prieta, Corralitos, Las Cumbres and the South Skyline area through a contract with Cal Fire. The agency has held neighborhood meetings in those locations to hear concerns and answer questions about fire protection services, emergency medical services and response times.

The county said County Fire faces challenges that include 25% fewer firefighters today compared to 10 years ago, a declining number of volunteer firefighters and a 22% increase in emergency calls. It said the engines are also at staffing levels that are below what is recommended.

The county is considering holding a vote by property owners on whether to implement an assessment under Proposition 218. According to Santa Cruz County Fire’s website, Prop 218 would provide funding through local property tax assessment, and it said that would help the agency with maintenance, response times, repairs and staffing.

If the board approves the option, there will be a mail-in vote within 45 days.

KION 2019

Fire / Santa Cruz County / Top Stories

KION546 News Team

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