Changes to fire services plan should save tax dollars


By Marlena Chavira-Medford

Staff Writer

Last year representatives from Solana Beach, Del Mar, Encinitas and Rancho Santa Fe signed the Cooperative Fire Management Service (CFMS) agreement, a plan that allows the four communities to consolidate fire services, making for faster response times and lower operating costs. During its Nov. 10 meeting, the Solana Beach City Council approved changes to that plan that will further those savings, resulting in more than $100,000 cumulatively for the city.

In September, the CFMS plan went through its first realignment when a Solana Beach deputy chief replaced a retiring Encinitas chief, a change that resulted in about $93,000 savings in taxpayers’ money throughout the four communities.

An ad hoc committee, which includes Solana Beach council members Joe Kellejian and David Roberts, has now helped devise a second phase of realignment.

In a presentation to council, Encinitas deputy fire chief Scott Henry explained how this next phase of realignment will work: The four communities will begin relying more on services from a training officer in Rancho Santa Fe’s Fire Protection District, and Solana Beach’s deputy chief will be assigned as support. That tweak will result in about $9,000 more in savings for the communities, bringing the total savings to about $102,000 between the two realignments.

“I’m pleased to report [the CMFS plan] exceeded our expectations,” said Solana Beach city manager David Ott, who helped launch the CFMS plan. “We started this with the philosophy of saying ‘We’ll never be able to figure everything out before we get into it — so let’s go forward, let’s take the next step and we’ll figure it out as we go.’ And, that’s exactly what’s occurred. It’s been an amazingly positive experience.”

Before the CFMS plan, the city of Solana Beach had one fire chief and one deputy chief, at the cost of $419,000 annually. With this latest alignment, the city will have one fire chief, three deputy chiefs, one training officer, three battalion chiefs, one fire marshal, and one analyst, at a cost of $294,800 annually — saving the city of Solana Beach about $124,200 cumulatively.

Henry told the council that the CMFS plan has been so successful, in fact, that other agencies are starting to look to it as a blueprint.

“We’re into new ground, we’re doing things that other agencies are starting to look at as a model,” he said. “We’re really proud of being pioneers of something that’s really critical in today’s economic climate.”