Fire services to merge?
The City of Sonoma fire services, currently provided by the Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue Authority under a Joint Powers Authority between the city and the Valley of the Moon Fire Protection District, may soon become a contracted service much like the Sonoma Police Department.
That step would save the city an estimated $108,718 a year.
The JPA currently governing fire services was created to consolidate personnel and resources, and to avoid duplication between city and district fire services. Now, following a lengthy study by representatives of both parties and following recommendations from a consultant's study, management of fire services could shift to a single governance body - the Valley of the Moon Fire District.
The City of Sonoma currently contracts for its law enforcement services with the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office, and although city police cars bear the name of the city, they belong to the county and city police officers are actually deputies of the Sheriff's Office.
If the fire services plan is completed, the city would likewise contract with the fire district for fire and rescue services, although in this case, the city would retain ownership of firefighting equipment used in its city-owned station house.
Sonoma city firefighters would become district employees and would become members of the county's employee bargaining unit.
Under terms of a preliminary agreement, the city would pay about 53 percent of the current joint agency's operating costs, with the fire district paying the other 47 percent. The division of expenses is based on an analysis of each individual agency's operational budgets and the average number of calls for service in the district and in the city.
While the city is expected to save something over $100,000 a year, the district, too, will save money, currently estimated at $50,000 a year.
During the July 6, City Council meeting, the four council members present voted unanimously to support the proposal, directing city staff to prepare a draft contract for fire services.