After years of negotiation and political clashes, the Oakley City Council has unanimously approved a major increase in residential and commercial fire district fees.
The agreement with the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District should lead to an increase in the current open three fire stations and a more stable financial structure for the struggling agency.
Fire Chief Brian Helmick has been pleading for an update in the fire fees, which in some cases had not been adjusted for decades. The lack of funding has led to multiple fire stations being unstaffed in the district.
Helmick on Wednesday hailed the passage of the fee increase, saying, “Our future is very bright. It’s exciting that an amenable agreement was finally reached. It was a long time in coming.”
City Manager Bryan Montgomery added, “It is good that the Fire Impact Fee matter is resolved.”
The fire agency serving Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Knightsen, Byron, Marsh Creek, and Morgan Territory announced last June “that due to severe under-funding, it has been forced to take new, urgent measures to maintain its extremely limited operations and keep firefighters safe” and would “only send firefighters inside a burning building if human life is at risk.”
“Our future is very bright. It’s exciting that an amenable agreement was finally reached. It was a long time in coming.”Brian Helmick, fire chief
The agreement with the fire district will increase per-unit fees for single-family homes from $779.18 to $1,317.97, age-restricted units from $486.85 to $722.76 and multi-family from $470.71 to $935.33. Commercial rates will rise from $.167 per square foot to $.89; office from $.167 to $1.19 and industrial from $.167 to $.59.
In addition to the new rates, the city agreed to transfer the deed for a 1-acre lot at Live Oak Avenue and Neroly Road to the fire district for use as a future station. The city could also sell the lot and supply the proceeds to the fire district. The sale or transfer would end a fire district claim over the city’s approval of the Contra Costa Logistics Center. The city signed a development pact last year to locate a large Amazon fulfillment center at the site.
The Oakley City Council rejected the proposed fee changes last year, leading to increasing friction with the fire district board as well as public backlash from local residents sweating out wildfires last fall.
Council members Randy Pope and George Fuller aired their continuing frustrations with the fire district during Tuesday’s meeting. “I don’t think we’ve got a good dance partner,” Pope said.
Fuller bemoaned the fire district’s financial policies saying, “We give them the money and we’ve got no control of how they spend it.”
But City Attorney Derek Cole repeatedly reminded the council that failure to pass the measure would leave the city at legal risk. Helmick also personally appealed to the council to end the disputes “and move forward.”