Gilroy’s shortsightedness on consolidating services

It’s hard to believe that in this economy, the idea of
consolidating fire and emergency dispatch services is not more
hotly debated.
It’s hard to believe that in this economy, the idea of consolidating fire and emergency dispatch services is not more hotly debated.

There are 15 fire departments in Santa Clara County, all of which have a high level of cooperation between them, yet they maintain separate organizational structures. That’s a redundancy that needs to be eliminated and would generate a huge cost savings that could be used to improve emergency services.

A recent report by the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury says the “reliance on an outdated model of service delivery … often sends an overkill of resources to minor emergency calls.”

The report, based on interviews with city managers, fire chiefs, and reports previously compiled by other county agencies, notes that more than 70 percent of the 128,000-plus calls for service throughout the county were strictly for medical aide.

However, all fire departments in Santa Clara County respond to every call with fire engines and fire crews, even when it turns out to be a minor or easily resolved emergency, the report said. That’s where new ideas are needed. Is it logical, even cost effective to continue that response?

Our neighbor, Morgan Hill, long ago contracted with Santa Clara County Fire and has been a vocal advocate for in-depth consideration of consolidation. About two years ago, Gilroy and Morgan Hill, plus representatives from SC County Fire, South County Fire District and Calfire formed an ad-hoc committee to implement a detailed study. That committee disbanded earlier this year when Gilroy officials decided not to participate. What part of more efficient government doesn’t Gilroy understand? Less expense in a consolidated area means more to spend on park maintenance, libraries, sidewalks, senior services, etc.

With Gilroy idly standing by on the sidelines, Morgan Hill and county officials will likely proceed with consolidation options.

“Morgan Hill has been a leader in the suggestion that South Santa Clara County is better served by regional fire service,” City Manager Ed Tewes said. Such a model should be based on two principles, the council has said – that the region’s 112,000 residents should be served by a single fire and EMS provider, and that provider should be managed under “a single governance structure.”

Dispatch consolidation is another idea, Gilroy and Morgan Hill should consider as part of fiscal planning.

To set aside consolidation options now assumes that the financial picture for local government will get rosier and rosier. If that’s not the case, Gilroy’s choice to abandon ship on consolidation efforts will come back to bite the community. The fault for that will land squarely in the laps of Mayor Al Pinheiro and the members of our City Council.

Leave your comments