DEL MAR — The Del Mar City Council authorized its city manager at the June 8 meeting to negotiate a contract for fire management services with the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District.
When Del Mar’s fire chief retired in 2004, the city eliminated the position and contracted with neighboring Solana Beach for administrative and emergency services. That arrangement remains in place, however, Rancho Santa Fe also began providing emergency response services to Del Mar, which was paying a discounted rate of $62,000 to Solana Beach and $8,800 to Rancho Santa Fe.
All contracts expired in December 2008, and the agreement is not an option for renewal at this point because Solana Beach will no longer be providing services. David Ott, who had been working as fire chief for both cities as well as city manager for Solana Beach, has transitioned into the full-time city manager position.
Del Mar City Manager Karen Brust presented her council with three alternatives, including hiring full-time fire and battalion chiefs at an estimated cost of $384,000, plus support equipment. The proposed budget for the next two fiscal years includes $240,000 annually for fire services.
“It’s not just a matter of what are the options,” Brust said. “It’s what the city can afford.”
Another potential solution was to dissolve the Del Mar Fire Department and consolidate it with another agency, which could impact local control. The city would maintain all its department assets, such as fire engines and stations, but personnel would be contracted out and managed by the new agency. Costs, which were developed for consolidation with Solana Beach, were estimated at $232,315.
Council members opted for the final alternative, which was to contract with another agency for administrative and emergency fire management services.
This will allow the current Fire Department to remain intact. Although it limits upward mobility, department personnel supported this option, which offers a budget savings and uninterrupted emergency response, according to the staff report.
Del Mar received proposals for this option from Rancho Santa Fe and Encinitas. Although the cost estimate from Encinitas was lower — $155,919 compared to Rancho Santa Fe’s $222,052 – Brust said there were differences in the proposals. “They’re not really apples to apples,” she said. Both were subject to negotiation.
A comprehensive review of the alternatives indicated negotiating services with Rancho Santa Fe appeared to be the optimal solution based on the city’s needs, according to the staff report.
Under the agreement, Rancho Santa Fe will provide Del Mar with a fire chief, deputy chief, fire marshal, three shift battalion chiefs and a training officer. The cost is based on a two-year contract and contingent on Solana Beach procuring services as well.
Brust said the Solana Beach City Council is expected to discuss the item at its June 24 or July 15 meeting. Councilman Richard Earnest, who worked on the council subcommittee, said there is a sense Solana Beach is “inclined … to be involved in this.” Ultimately, he said, the desire is to form a joint powers authority but that is at least two years in the making.