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SPECIAL MINUTES


BROOKTRAILS TOWNSHIP COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

BROOKTRAILS COMMUNITY CENTER

24850 Birch Street, Willits, CA 95490

April 17, 2001

The Board of Directors of Brooktrails Township Community Services District met in special session on April 17, 2001 in Brooktrails Community Center. President Richard Estabrook called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.


A. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE


B. ROLL CALL

Roll call showed the following Directors present: Whitney, Venturi, Monteleone, Orth, and Estabrook. General Manager Chapman was also present.


C. ADDITIONS/ ADJUSTMENTS TO THE AGENDA

None


D. MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETINGS

None


E. SPECIAL PRESENTATION - Daryl Schoeppner

Director of Emergency Services, Daryl Schoeppner, came forward and thanked the Board for the opportunity to speak on the important issues facing the Fire Department.

Using the overhead projector, he began with a brief history of the Fire Department including the formation of the department, purchase of equipment, passage of the fire tax initiative, personnel, beginning of the hazard abatement program, purchase of the ambulance, radio dispatch service, defeat of last fire tax measure, the retirement of Chief Dave Thomen, and his appointment in July of 2000. He also provided a history of the ambulance service, both in the Willits area and in Brooktrails.

He outlined the current staff serving the department, including paid and volunteer, and reviewed the functions of the department and the allocation of time spent by staff.

Referencing the firefighting equipment on display, he stressed the fact that the equipment used by the department is very expensive because it must meet certain standards, and outlined the price of each piece of equipment and protective clothing required to outfit a firefighter. He noted that two sets of equipment are needed, one for structure fires and another for wild land fires.

Director Whitney voiced concern that the fire fighting equipment was not listed as an asset, and may not be accounted for in the District's budget.

Mr. Schoeppner explained that 10% of the protective clothing and equipment should be replaced each year. However, currently the department can only afford to replace equipment based on need. He pointed out that some of the necessary equipment is purchased by the Firefighters Association through fund raising events.

Kris Wagner, of Perch Drive, suggested the cost to outfit a firefighter be included in the next newsletter.

Mr. Schoeppner then described the various training exercises and certification classes required for firefighters and EMTs, and provided a count of the certified EMT's serving the department, noting the costs to maintain the certificates.

Director Orth explained the effect of the Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating on insurance rates, noting that dollar-for-dollar any increase in the fire tax could be justified because of lower insurance premiums for residents. A brief question and answer session ensued concerning the ISO rating, how it is determined, and the rating of Brooktrails and the outlying areas.

Moving on, he reviewed the things the department is doing to cut costs. He also provided expense projections for the near future, such as acquisition of vehicles, personnel to manage the abatement program, training expenses, uniform allowance, and equipment. In response to an inquiry from Director Monteleone, Mr. Schoeppner outlined grant funding programs available to volunteer fire departments.

Director Monteleone asked Mr. Schoeppner to state his analysis of the fire department's situation, his recommendations, and what he sees as the "big picture" for the department, aside from the need for more money.

Mr. Schoeppner responded that the department's biggest priority is fire prevention, by means of a reasonable, consistent, and affordable fire prevention program. He emphasized the need to improve the base of volunteers and to provide adequate equipment to outfit them. If more funds and volunteers were available he would concentrate on proper training, up-to-date equipment, community involvement, public education, and programs for children.

Mark Tolbert, with CDF, commented on the California Fire Plan which was provided in the Board packet, noting that many agencies do not have the funds to accomplish everything that is recommended in the plan, and spoke highly the District's abatement program.

Bob Houtz, of Harrah Drive, spoke in favor of an increase in the fire tax and the abatement program. He complimented both agencies on the quick response to the grass fire in the previous summer. He also commented that the District's residents have one of the lowest insurance rates in the state because of its level of fire response.

Director Orth pointed out that the Specific Plan process depleted the Fire Department's capital funds. He stressed the need to account for inflation and growth, and to rebuild reserves.

Leslie Wade suggested having the Fire Department staff do the abatement work, and contribute the funds to the department. Director Orth pointed out that such a program could create a conflict of interest, as property owners would feel that the abatement program was actually a way to raise funds for the department.

Director Monteleone suggested utilizing properly trained volunteers, not necessarily firefighters, to assist property owners with the abatement of their lots. Director Venturi pointed out the costs associated with the use of volunteers. President Estabrook suggested a future agenda item be scheduled to discuss the use of second-level volunteers in the abatement program.


F. PUBLIC HEARING

None


G. PUBLIC COMMENTS

None

 

A break was called.


BREAK at 9:00 p.m. RECONVENE at 9:10 p.m.


H. ACTION AGENDA

President Estabrook asked each person, in turn, to introduce themselves. A large group was present from the Fire Fighters Association, as well as several residents of the District. He encouraged them, as they listened to the statistics, to think about possible solutions to the problems facing the department and to communicate their ideas to the Board and the District staff.

Gary Cavahaugh commented that the use of fire tax funds in the past for studies on the new dam and the Specific Plan soured him towards voting for an increase to the tax. He suggested that it be written into the ballot measure that the funds will be used only for emergency services.

Director Orth commented that the escalator built into the last tax measure to compensate for inflation was another factor in the measure's defeat.


1. PRESENTATION OF FIRE DEPARTMENT ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2000. Ned McKinnon, President of the Brooktrails Firefighters Association (BFA) voiced the association's support of the fire tax measure. He reiterated the need for additional funds for training and equipment for the volunteers.

President Estabrook asked the volunteers to research and help determine what the public did not like about the tax measure that failed in 1999.

Bob Nowlin, Firefighter, provided an outline of the training he received while employed with CDF, and stressed the need to keep equipment and training up-to-date. He suggested investing in an specialized rescue unit, which he felt would be result in more calls, and therefore more profit for the department. He also spoke against the annual escalator in the fire tax measure.

Katherine Wade, Firefighter and Secretary/Treasurer for BFA, reiterated the need for adequate equipment. She provided a report of fund raising activities and expenses covered by the BFA to benefit the department, including over $5,000 earmarked for the purchase of a "jaws of life" tool.

Comments were also received from Firefighters Bryan Miller and Eric Simpson.

Leslie Wade, spoke highly of the BFA's efforts to raise funds for the purchase of equipment that should be provided by the taxpayers.


Gary Cavanaugh, resident of the District and former firefighter, urged the Board to support the volunteers. He commented that in the past the Board demonstrated its support of the department by siphoning funds for the planning process. He pointed out that many of the residents that were volunteers at that time still live in the area, and in order for him to support an increase to the tax, he would have to see the Board return those funds to the Fire Department and guarantee that any future tax collected would be spent on the department.


Presentation of Fire Department costs and revenues: General Manager Chapman

Director Orth asked General Manager Chapman to research the cost of the Specific Plan and how much came out of each fund.

With the aid of the overhead projector, General Manager Chapman reviewed charts of revenues and expenditures in the Fire Fund during the 1990s, noting the decline in the fund balance during that time period.

He next displayed a worksheet of the current fiscal year budget, anticipating an additional decrease in the fund balance of $10,500. He noted that $1,000 had been budgeted for training in the next fiscal year.

He commented that the original fire tax initiative did not include funding for the ambulance, and although there seems to be public support for the service, financial support was not included in the fire tax base. He stated that the success of the next tax initiative would depend on how it is presented to the voters.

A brief question and answer session ensued with the General Manager. He stressed the fact that the fire department is a critical service and urged those audience members concerned about mismanagement of funds to "bury the hatchet" and look towards the future.

In response to Bob Houtz, President Estabrook clarified the percentage of revenues received by the District from property taxes. He explained that because of Proposition 13, those taxes cannot be increased, which necessitates the passage of a special tax to increase revenues. Director Orth added that the District no longer receives augmentation funds in the amount of $30,000 per year.


2. QUARTERLY REPORT ON USE OF DISTRICT AMBULANCE.

Mr. Schoeppner invited questions from the audience. In response to Director Orth he provided a brief update on the primary ambulance service in Willits.

Leslie Wade asked if the ambulance was breaking even. General Manager Chapman acknowledged that the ambulance, also, is operating at a loss. Ms. Wade reported that she had spoken with friends and neighbors who recognized the need for the service, and she suggested that funding for it be incorporated into the next tax measure.

Upon the request of Director Venturi, Mr. Schoeppner provided a breakdown of the medical emergency response process. He pointed out that Brooktrails Fire Department is the first responder for medical aid in the District, and acts as the backup ambulance to Liberty Ambulance Service for transport. Director Venturi asked the General Manager to invite a representative from Liberty Ambulance to attend a future Board meeting.

President Estabrook called for a motion to extend the meeting beyond 10:30 p.m. Director Venturi moved to extend the meeting to 11:00 p.m. Director Monteleone seconded the motion which passed unanimously.

Bryan Miller pointed out that it would be more costly to replace the ambulance in the future if it were sold now and replaced later.

Director Whitney spoke in favor of subsidizing the ambulance service through the General Fund until it could be funded as a part of the fire tax measure.

Director Monteleone stressed the need to educate the people about the issues.

Director Venturi encouraged the volunteers go door-to-door to find out what the people are willing to support.

Ned McKinnon reiterated that the public must be assured that the money will be used for emergency services.

Moving on, Mr. Schoeppner provided a summary of the quarterly ambulance report, and invited questions and comments from the audience.

Director Orth pointed out that the percentage of ambulance billings written off had increased as a result of the increased rates, as Medical and Medicare will only pay a fixed amount. He asked the other Board members to confirm that it is their intention to pursue the fire tax increase as a part of the November election, and suggested that staff begin the process of determining the firm numbers, including the amount spent on the Specific Plan. He suggested the tax rate be based on a ten-year period. Director Venturi asked the volunteers to get public input on how many years the taxpayers felt was reasonable.


Bob Houtz suggested the General Manager provide expense projections to base the tax rate on, and to determine what percentage of an escalator would be necessary.


3. CONTINUED REVIEW OF THE FIRE ABATEMENT PROGRAM

Director Monteleone asked that in the second paragraph of the letter to the Brooktrails property owners, the phrase "We would like all property owners to be in compliance" be changed to "All property owners must be in compliance." She also asked that a statement be added that property owners are responsible to maintain and monitor their lot.

Director Whitney asked that in the second paragraph the phrase "at a later date" be struck from the last sentence. He also pointed out a typographical error in the Vegetation Management Standards.

Director Orth moved to approve the letters, with the amendments to the Brooktrails property owners letters. The motion was seconded by Director Venturi.

Kris Wagner suggested the lots that are donated to the District be used as demonstration lots for the abatement program.

A vote was taken on the motion which passed unanimously.


I. SPECIAL REPORTS - GENERAL MANAGER


i. Significant Correspondence received since last meeting:


ii. Personnel


iii. Finance


iv. Planning


v. Possible upcoming agenda items


vi. Other


J. PUBLIC COMMENTS

Mark Tolbert, with CDF, passed out material related to a grant proposal submitted to the Department of Agriculture by retired CDF Chief Wattenburger for funds to assist with the elimination of fire hazards in Brooktrails. He stressed the need to continue fire prevention education programs, to maintain a close working relationship with Little Lake and CDF, to continue the abatement program and evacuation planning. He spoke in favor of continuing controlled burns as a means of preventing wild fires.

He updated the Board on the status of CDF's GIS mapping process and outlined the guidelines in the California Fire Plan.


K. ADJOURNMENT

Director Orth moved to adjourn and President Estabrook declared the meeting of April 17, 2001 closed at 11:26 p.m.


MICHAEL V. CHAPMAN

Secretary to the Board of Directors


RICHARD ESTABROOK,

President


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