San Carlos to decide fate of fire department

San Carlos votes to outsource fire services
April 23, 2011 7:31:35 PM PDT
San Carlos has already outsourced its parks and payroll services in the face of a multi-million dollar budget deficit. In two weeks, police operations will be taken over by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department and now the city is close to deciding the fate of its fire department.

San Bruno and Millbrae's fire departments just agreed to do it and now San Carlos is considering something that's outraging fire fighters. Now that the Belmont and San Carlos fire department which is a joint relationship is dissolving, San Carlos needs a new partner.

The city's consultants are making two recommendations. Allow Wackenhut Services Inc., a private security company to run the department or team up with Redwood City's Fire Department.

"We do a lot of joint training w/redwood city next door, we share a fire marshal, we work very seamlessly with them," Cpt. Gary Jacobs from the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department.

The fire fighters want the public to stand with them and their preferred choice, and they're going door-to-door to get support. But according to Mayor Omar Ahmad, both choices would retain the same staff, not close any fire stations, and save more than $1 million. But going private could save even more.

"We're not trying to throw people out, but there needs to be a very different structure and a different way that allows San Carlos to move forward fiscally," Ahmad said.

"The way things have been going and the fact that the Wackenhut proposal is still on the table Yeah, I have concerns," Council Member Matt Grocott said.

The concern for many involves changing from a public agency to a privately operated one. Residents are divided.

"Worse comes to worse, join Redwood City but not with private company definitely not," San Carlos resident Piere Haghighi said.

"I think we should do whatever it takes to make the citizens safe as possible. Doesn't matter to me whether private or keep with the city," San Carlos resident Leah McMurtry said.

The city council is expected to make a decision and vote on the matter Monday night.


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