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November 25, 2009 > Contract with Alameda County Fire Department under way

Contract with Alameda County Fire Department under way

By Meenu Gupta

City of Newark is considering a contract for fire services with the Alameda County Fire Department (ACFD). A partnership with the ACFD could mean an estimated $500,000 savings in the first year and similar savings in each subsequent year, besides full administrative functionality and reduced workloads for other departments. According to a report presented by Alameda County Fire Chief Sheldon Gilbert, a common dispatch center will mean increased coordination and greater depth of emergency resources.

Council convened a work session and gave its approval for City Manager John Becker and staff to work toward the contract with ACFD. Presentation of the contract to Council is expected in January 2010.

"Council will do what's in the City's best interests though it's a difficult decision because the community loves its fire department and we've an independent spirit about us," said Mayor David Smith.

TCV interviewed Alameda County Fire Chief Sheldon Gilbert about the transition.

TCV: Though there won't be any lay-offs, the staffing will change, like some administrative support positions, would you like to comment on that?

Gilbert: Some administrative positions are included in the proposal and would be available to current Newark Fire Department support staff. The specifics of the assignments of the support staff will be determined as part of the contract negotiations.

TCV: What will be the short- and long-term savings for the city?

Gilbert: Yes, there will be short- and long-term savings for the City of Newark. There will be a savings of between $500,000 and $900,000 per annum for the first five years of the contract. It is anticipated that proportional savings will take place after the first five years too.

TCV: The normal contract time for other cities with ALCO is a minimum of five year what would be the duration for Newark?

Gilbert: The proposed duration of the contract with Newark is five years.

TCV: How long will the transition process take?

Gilbert: It is anticipated Newark Fire Department employees will transition into the Alameda County Fire Department (ACFD) in 60 days, following the approval of the contract by the City of Newark and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. There will be an 18-to-24 month, incremental integration period during which the Newark Fire Department's policies, procedures, etc. will be standardized with the ACFD.

TCV: Would you like to elaborate on the improved services and faster response time arising from the contract?

Gilbert: Response times for automatic aid and mutual aid will be reduced. Both the City of Union City and City of Fremont are dispatched by the Alameda County Emergency Communications Center (ACRECC). A single, fire dispatch center eliminates the need for requests to be communicated between centers so call transfer times are reduced by 60 to 90 seconds. Currently, the City of Newark is not belong to ACRECC but will do so as part of the contract for service implementation. In addition, specialized responses (Hazardous Materials Team, Water Rescue, etc.) will be immediately dispatched and sent to Newark and there will be more resources to backfill during incidents of an extended duration. The ACFD will also be able to provide support and overhead to ensure the City of Newark meets industry standards and mandates, such as training, emergency medical services (EMS), risk management and disaster preparedness.

TCV: This is part of the hybrid model which was discussed by Council in April 2009, though the results of that study showed that a shared department between Newark and Union City would not have saved Newark any money. That same study suggested there may be savings if Newark and Union City joined the Alameda County Fire Department?

Gilbert: Additional efficiencies and economies of scale will be realized if Union City chooses to receive contract fire services from the ACFD.

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