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Costa Mesa to keep its Fire Department

Council agrees not to outsource services to the county. Interim fire chief to present restructuring plan to council at May 8 study session.

April 18, 2012|By Jenny Stockdale, Special to the Daily Pilot

Fire service, the largest and most expensive of the 18 services under review, was the first to undergo the outsourcing analysis and has set the benchmark for how the process will function moving forward.

City CEO Tom Hatch said the council in May will review six incoming bids for other city services, including jail operations, street sweeping, building inspection, video production and animal control. Telecommunications technical and dispatch services may also be considered by that time.

Righeimer said that the outsourcing process might end up being a good fit for only jail operations and street sweeping, and that many city departments have been cutting their own expenses and costs to prevent the need for hiring out.


"We don't have the numbers yet," he said, "but in several cases, they've brought their budgets down so low that they may have solved the problems themselves."

Righeimer disagreed with the idea that keeping the Costa Mesa's firefighters was a move away from outsourcing.

"This vote is no shift in direction at all," he said. "It's exactly what we said we would do, which is to look at our resources and conduct a cost-to-benefit analysis. It's the first major outsourcing issue that has come to us that's been analyzed, and we've learned a lot from it."

"I think we need to talk to our organization and resolve the issues that we have and solve the problem," Councilwoman Wendy Leece said in an interview Wednesday. "We need to retain our firefighters because we need their institutional knowledge. Costa Mesa firefighters know our city."

OCFA Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion said his organization doesn't solicit cities for business, and that it has only been approached for proposals on how to streamline fire operations.

"We truly believe that the regional fire service approach is the best model out there as far as providing fire service," he said. "We realize the economy of scale, we have specialized equipment available to our entire region that's not typically afforded by a smaller fire departments. It's working for Santa Ana, and it could have done so for Costa Mesa, should they have chosen to accept the proposal."

Jennifer Muir, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn., applauded the motion, but criticized the council for its approach on the city's financial crisis.

"It's great that there are a number of employees who don't have to live with an ax over their head anymore," she said. "But there are still more than 100 employees who do, and they've received those notices more than five times."

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