The City Council on Tuesday made a decision to explore all possible options when it comes to control of the Turlock Fire Department, giving the go-ahead to request a contract proposal from Modesto Fire for administration, management and command services.
There was plenty of lively discussion and pushback from community members in attendance at the Council meeting regarding the proposal, though a majority of Councilmembers agreed that seeing just how a contract with the neighboring fire department would work could be beneficial to the City.
Still, Councilmembers Nicole Larson and Andrew Nosrati voted “no” on the recommendation, while Mayor Amy Bublak, Vice Mayor Pam Franco and Councilwoman Rebecka Monez voted in its favor.
“This is a very understandably heated and passionate argument whether we do this or not,” Franco said. “But tonight, there’s no contract proposal here…This isn’t saying that we’re going to do anything, this is just to give us numbers so we can compare.”
Interim Fire Chief Michael Botto explained that seeking a contract proposal from the City of Modesto and the Modesto Fire Department wasn’t a commitment to utilizing their services, but would allow the Council to “seek information in order to make an informed decision.”
The contract proposal will identify the costs of contracting through Modesto Fire along with potential expected savings, and provide a comparison between a regional administration command team and the City maintaining its own traditional fire administration.
In late October, the City Council approved a $79,235 contract with Citygate Associates, LLC, for a six-month Fire Master Plan review/study which will review the fire department’s operations and level of service delivery. The study will serve as a roadmap to provide direction for capital improvement funding needs and assist the City in long-range fiscal planning, and Tuesday’s vote will ensure information about contracting with Modesto Fire will be included in the study’s final results.
Botto stated that without a permanent Fire Chief, Division Chief of Operations and Division Chief of Training, there is no better time for the City to explore the option.
“Are we as efficient as we can be? Can we provide a greater level of service by working together with regional organization?” Botto asked. “That question needs to be answered.”
Chad Hackett, President of Turlock Firefighters Local 2434, said he was surprised by the recommendation for a contract proposal from Modesto Fire. While the association supports the fire study with Citygate and eagerly awaits the results, he said contracting with Modesto Fire would create a lack of accountability and leadership in Turlock and the prospect of being promoted from within would virtually disappear.
“We believe this resolution is out of place with the Citygate study not yet conducted. We urge the Council to disapprove this request and let the Citygate study proceed as approved,” Hackett said. “We reiterate our desire to work hand in hand with City staff and elected officials as Turlock seeks to improve City services not only for fire, but in all areas.”
Several members of the community also spoke during public comment in opposition of exploring a contract with Modesto Fire, and Bublak defended herself against accusations that the Council is anti-fire.
“I haven’t been supported by fire, but I’ve supported them nonstop,” Bublak said. "So this whole hatred concept and jumping to conclusions and people wanting to sell out — this is all wrong. This is about us looking at these things, providing information and seeing what happens.”