Del Mar to contract with Rancho Santa Fe district

After many years of studying the best way to provide fire protection services, Del Mar is working to maintain its fire department, but contracting the top management positions such as fire chief from Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District.

The City Council authorized City Manager Karen Brust to negotiate a contract with the neighboring fire district to provide a fire chief, deputy chief, fire marshal, three battalion chiefs and a training officer for Del Mar’s fire department.

Solana Beach is also considering a similar arrangement with Rancho Santa Fe because David Ott, who has served as fire chief for both Solana Beach and Del Mar for many years, is transitioning solely into his role as Solana Beach city manager.

“It’s a way to try to create a richer, more quality delivery model for all our agencies,” Brust said.

Del Mar Deputy Mayor Richard Earnest and Councilman Marc Filanc served on the subcommittee working on this issue and both said contracting with Rancho Santa Fe was the best option at this time because it was affordable and short-term.

The contract, if approved, would only be for two years, giving the city time to further investigate other options, such as hiring its own fire chief and deputy fire chief; consolidating with the Solana Beach Fire Department; or establishing a joint powers authority (JPA) with Rancho Santa Fe and Solana Beach.

“This gives us the flexibility we desire at this time,” said Del Mar City Councilman Marc Filanc. “I think a JPA is certainly worth looking at.”

Since Del Mar eliminated its fire chief position six years ago, it has been contracting fire management services from Solana Beach. The two cities and Rancho Santa Fe have been studying how they might better coordinate their fire departments for the last three years.

Ott agreed that the ultimate goal is to form a JPA, which would give the cities and agencies access to better service than they could afford on their own and also saves money by eliminating redundancy.

“Most importantly, if you’re a member of a JPA, you do have a seat at the table to be a part of the decision making process,” Ott said.

Del Mar’s contract with Rancho Santa Fe is dependent on Solana Beach going through with their contract. Ott said he is ironing out a few more details and hopes to bring the contract to the Solana Beach City Council for consideration next month.