Del Mar approves changes to shared fire services agreement with Solana Beach, Encinitas

By Kristina Houck

Del Mar, Encinitas and Solana Beach will no longer share fire personnel services with Rancho Santa Fe.

To offset the services Rancho Santa Fe will no longer provide, the Del Mar City Council on Monday, June 17, unanimously approved organizational and staffing changes to the shared fire services agreement with Encinitas and Solana Beach.

The coast cities, along with Rancho Santa Fe, entered into an agreement in 2009 to streamline personnel operations. Under the current contract, which is effective through June 30, the coast cities share three deputy chiefs with Rancho Santa Fe, and Rancho Santa Fe provides access to three shift battalion chiefs and one battalion chief training officer.

Representatives from each of the four agencies met to discuss the shared services in February. The coast cities advocated moving to one fire chief to promote further cooperation, while Rancho Santa Fe wanted to maintain an independent fire chief. A month later, Rancho Santa Fe informed the coast cities it would no longer utilize the deputy chiefs. Del Mar, Encinitas and Solana Beach have since terminated their contract services with Rancho Santa Fe.

“The decision that Rancho Santa Fe made was that they had to be a stand-alone operation for various reasons, and it’s very understandable,” Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott said. “This realignment necessitates us coming together as three cities even stronger, I think, than what we’ve been doing.”

With the Del Mar City Council’s approval, two of the three deputy chiefs in July will be reassigned to shift battalion chiefs, a mid-management position with fewer hours and less pay. Because battalion chiefs will be working 24 hours instead of a 40-hour work week, a non-sworn program assistant will be hired to assist with administrative tasks.

“We believe that we can maintain the highest service level at a cost-effective manner with this model,” said Deputy Fire Chief Mike Daigle.

The coast cities currently pay more than $1.5 million for shared services, of which Del Mar pays nearly $183,000. With the reorganization of the contract, Del Mar will save roughly $15,000. Solana Beach and Encinitas will save about $27,000 and $58,000, respectively.