A Problem with the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Fee Assessment

All property owners within the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District should have already received their ballot and many of you have probably already returned them. In order to determine the value of your assessment a Fire Suppression Assessment Engineer’s Report was created. Part of this assessment uses fire hydrant location.

Using data and maps provided by the Contra Costa County, the Engineer’s report determines the Building Square Footage, Land Use, Fire Sprinkler Data, Distance to a Station, Distance to a Hydrant for each Assessor’s Parcel in the proposed Assessment. Fire Sprinkler Data is determined based on the City and Year Built. Distance to a Station and Distance to a Hydrant are calculated using GIS mapping.

Through pure happenstance a Director of the Fire District, had received a benefit assessment ballot which showed what he believed was an incorrect assessment amount for his property. The amount was too low compared to the estimates in the Engineer’s Report.

Through research the District has determined that this is not an isolated issue and that two sources of data; the fire hydrant location and road data, are out of date.

At a Special Board of Directors meeting last night and approved staff’s recommendation to stop the current balloting process for the benefit assessment, update the databases and engineer’s report, and then re-print and send ballots to the entire district as part of a new ballot process.

This morning on Facebook the following was posted:

East Contra Costa Fire Protection District to Reissue Ballots
for Fire Suppression Benefit Assessment

OAKLEY—The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District will reissue ballots to all property owners to reflect updated fire data received from outside agencies.

“It is important that all property owners be assessed the correct amount, so we will be taking a close look at all of the data to ensure complete accuracy,” said Fire Chief Hugh Henderson. “A timeline for reballoting will be determined at an upcoming Board meeting. Our goal is to conclude this process, including the balloting, by the end of the year. We expect the recalculation will result in lower assessment amounts for a majority of property owners in the district.”

The data to be updated includes fire hydrant locations in newly developed areas. Proximity to fire hydrants is one of many criteria weighed by an engineer’s report detailing the special benefit received by property owners under a five-station fire protection model.

If the benefit assessment is approved by a majority of property owners, it will fund the cost of keeping five stations open for five years. This would include hiring and training additional personnel, allowing Station 54 in Brentwood to reopen, and would likely result in reducing fire emergency response times for most residences and businesses in East County. Station 54 was closed temporarily September 1.
District revenues, which are heavily dependent on property taxes, decreased 40 percent due to the recession and housing crisis. Significant budget cuts, including salary freezes and increased payroll contributions for pensions, were made. With federal funding set to expire in November, the Board of Directors voted unanimously on August 4 to propose the assessment to property owners. Ballots were mailed August 22. These ballots will not be counted and property owners are asked to discard ballots not yet returned.

If the fire suppression assessment is rejected by property owners, the District will likely make the Brentwood station closure permanent and be required to close an additional station. Operational changes to call responses and protocols will need to be implemented if the District returns to the three-station model.

ABOUT THE EAST CONTRA COSTA FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT: The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District spans 249 square miles and our firefighter/EMTs serve more than 100,000 residents in the Cities of Brentwood and Oakley, the Town of Discovery Bay, the communities of Byron, Bethel Island and Knightsen, the Marsh Creek/Morgan Territory area, and all other areas within unincorporated Contra Costa County to the east of Antioch and to the southeast of Clayton.


About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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