Palo Alto Weekly
News - April 13, 2012
Palo Alto to close fire station that services SLAC
Shutdown of Station 7 will result in nine fewer Fire Department positions
by Gennady Sheyner
A Palo Alto fire station that has been providing service to the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory for close to four decades will be shut down at the end of this month, the Weekly has learned.
Station 7, which includes one engine and three firefighters and which is actually located on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, will close later this month because of a decision by SLAC to seek fire-protection services from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. Palo Alto has been staffing the station for about 40 years as part of its contract with Stanford University, which the city's fire department also serves.
But SLAC, which is operated by the Department of Energy, has recently decided to discontinue the long-standing arrangement, Interim Fire Chief Dennis Burns told the Weekly. The chief driver, he said, was cost savings.
"It's not because of the quality of service, and it's not because of the relationship between agencies. It's just because there's been an economic downturn, and they're receiving less and less funds for their operations," Burns said.
SLAC's new agreement with the Menlo Park district means that the laboratory will no longer have a fire station on site. According to a recent report from Harold Schapelhouman, fire chief of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, the Department of Energy had performed a "basic-needs assessment" at the site and determined that on-site fire protection is no longer necessary and that "off-site services were more cost efficient and acceptable based upon the risk and actual call volume."
"Given the site location, its high level of life-and-fire-safety mitigation efforts, actual call activity and risk, it makes sense that surrounding fire agencies provide basic emergency response services to the site," Schapelhouman wrote in a December report.
The move also makes geographical sense. The station is based at the SLAC campus off Sand Hill. It was built in 1968 and is staffed by three firefighters, who rotate in three shifts throughout the day. The current arrangement also calls for the station to be immediately backfilled with other personnel whenever the engine leaves the SLAC campus.
The station's closure means the Palo Alto Fire Department will lose nine positions, though Burns said that because of existing vacancies the switch would not result in any layoffs in the department. He said the city is still re-examining its existing fee structure with Stanford to determine the exact fiscal impact of the station's shutdown.
Though the shutdown of Station 7 is driven by SLAC rather than by Palo Alto, the move is taking place at a time when the city is also taking a fresh look at its fire operations. Last year, an independent analysis commissioned by the City Council offered a long list of recommendations, including more cost-sharing arrangements with surrounding jurisdictions and a possible merger of Station 2 on Hanover Street and Station 5 on Arastradero Road.
While the Palo Alto Fire Department has been pursuing some recommendations, including merging of some administrative functions between the police and fire departments and consolidation of dispatch services with neighboring cities, it has no plans to close any stations (other than Station 7) in the near future, Burns said.
The 2011 report, from TriData Division and ICMA Center for Public Safety Excellence, indicated that Station 7 received 169 calls in 2009, far fewer than any other station except Station 8, a station in the foothills that operates only during the fire season. Burns noted that the shutdown of Station 7 is a separate effort from the department's broader look at making operations more efficient.
The TriData and ICMA report also states that it "does not appear that Station 7 is needed in the greater Palo Alto Fire Department deployment scheme."
"This station simply fulfills its contracted role as first responder to all Stanford SLAC emergencies," the report states. "Station 7 has incredibly low workload and is not in a good position to respond to anything other than as a complement unit (which it cannot really do because this station needs to be backfilled within 10 minutes)."
Posted by Myopic Eye,
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 11, 2012 at 5:18 pm
The players are interchangable...wealthy resident, union member, clueless politician...as is the location...affluent town, expensive department, wasteful city hall...and the scenario...stop spending my taxes, consolidate frivolous jobs, show whose boss.
Whichever point of view you believe in, you've all forgotten there are "true" VICTIMS here. There are "real" humans whose jobs you all so callously and rudely mock. It seems, in many of your opinions, these employees aren't doing real work anyway. So, that makes it okay to speak so cruelly?
It's mind boggling that everyone nonchalantly brushes aside a person with a name, family and obligations losing his/her means of making a living because it's more important to expound a personal agenda. No one ever remembers that government employees pay taxes too. When you get a tax hike, they do too and probably have just as difficult a time figuring out how to adjust. It seems too, many citizens, the same ones that are government employees' neighbors, believe these people go to work knowing full well that they are "cheating" the public, by doing fake work, for outrageous amounts of money and most certainly are celebrating "sticking it" to the taxpayer.
Well, I'm pretty sure they're just like you and me. They go to work and deal with all the difficulties that might entail. They may like or dislike some parts of the job. Maybe some co-workers are hard to deal with. Some are lucky by somehow still feeling fulfilled in serving others. In any case, the work has to be done in order provide the basics of a home for a family...food...clothing...a roof. In fact, just like most of us, I bet they worry about it...constantly.
Here's the thing though, unlike you, they are maligned, villified and de-humanized without recourse...by...well...you in venues like this one. Do you see it as your constitutional right to do so? Maybe you even see it as justice, or a crusading obligation.
I'm guessing these government workers, who want to be productive members of society, live a decent life, hopefully give some nice things to their families...like college, don't understand why any of this is happening or being said about to them. I'm thinking they don't understand what exactly they've done that makes you hate them so much. Maybe they're wondering why you can't see they want the same things for their own people that you want for yours. Maybe their job isn't exactly what they thought it would be either, but believe they work hard and EARN their pay.
I believe above all the rhetoric, opinions, politics, what have you, the very simple fact is government worker, politician, community citizen, homeless person are all living, breathing, thinking, beings and by those virtues alone should be treated and spoken of with respect and dignity. Your taxpayer dollars didn't pay for you to treat others poorly. It's not your constitutional right to be hurtful or spiteful.
I also truly believe that a government employee, just like anyone who want to work, would rather expend his/her own tax dollars as a paycheck rather than as a welfare check to himself. How about you?
Posted by Peter Carpenter,
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
Alphonso - You have not been paying attention.
The MPFPD Board came out in support of consolidation years ago.
Resolution No. 1181-07
RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE MENLO PARK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT
DECLARING IT IS IN THE PUBLIC'S INTEREST FOR THE BOARD AND AFFECTED RESIDENTS TO
REVIEW AND CONSIDER ABROAD RANGE OF POTENTIAL CONSOLIDATION ALTERNATIVES TO
IMPROVE SERVICE AND REDUCE COSTS AND IT IS IN THE PUBLIC'S INTEREST TO ENCOURAGE
ALL OTHER ENTITIES IN SAN MATEO COUNTY THAT OPERATE FIRE AND EMERGENCY MEDICAL
SERVICE ACTIVITIES TO ADOPT ASIMILAR POLICY
The District Board of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District finds and determines as follows:
(a) WHEREAS, on Wednesday August 15, 2007 the San Mateo County Local Agency
Formation Commission ("SM LAFCO") pursuant to California Government Code Sections 56430 and
56425 considered areport documenting a Municipal Service Review and Sphere of Influence update for
Menlo Park Fire Protection District ("District") and Woodside Fire Protection District; and
(b) WHEREAS, the SM LAFCO report analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of
consolidation or reorganization of the Menlo Park and Woodside Fire Protection Districts. The report
included the options of maintaining the status quo of two side-by-side Fire Districts or consolidating the
Menlo Park and Woodside Fire Districts; and
(c) WHEREAS, on September 18, 2007 the SM LAFCO presented the District Board with the
Municipal Service and Sphere of Influence Review; and
(d) WHEREAS, specific to the concept of consolidation, the Strategic Planning Commission of
the District Board recommended to the Board that it direct the Chief and District staff to draft aletter or
policy announcement to all elected officials and citizens of the local region to review and consider both the
positive and negative impacts of fire district and fire service consolidation.
In consideration of the foregoing findings and determinations,
IT IS RESOLVED by the District Board as follows:
1. The Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board declares that it is in the public's interest for
the District Board to carefully review and consider whether consolidation is adesirable action and, if so, the
available range of potential consolidation alternatives from the local to the County wide level in order to
improve service and reduce costs.
2. The District Board encourages all entities in San Mateo County that operate fire or
emergency medical services activities to adopt a similar policy towards the review and consideration of
consolidation options and to engage in intergovernmental and community dialogue so that all issues may
be explored openly and in solidarity.
3. The District Board wishes to emphasize that it currently has no predetermined position on
the merits of consolidation in general or any particular consolidation option in particular.
I hereby certify that the foregoing is a full, true and correct copy of a resolution duly and regularly
adopted and passed at a meeting of the District Board of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, San Mateo
County, California, held on the 16th day of October, 2007.
And it has taking strong steps to restrain employee wages and benefits:
RESOLUTION OF THE MENLO PARK FIRE
PROTECTION DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS APPROVING
AMENDMENTS AND IMPROVEMENTS TO CURRENT DISTRICT PRACTICES
AND POLICIES AFFECTING SAFETY EMPLOYEES
WHEREAS, the labor agreement (hereafter "Memorandum of Understanding" or
"MOU") between the Menlo Park Fire Protection District (hereafter "District") and the Menlo
Park Firefighters' Association, IAFF Local 2400 (hereafter "Union"), expired on June 30, 2008;
WHEREAS, since June 30, 2008, the Union and the District have been unable to reach
agreement on a successor MOU; and following numerous invitations by the District to negotiate
a new contract, all of which were declined by the Union, necessary changes required the District
to declare impasse and impose terms and conditions of employmentincluding a $9,000 per
year increase to the District's contribution toward the health and welfare benefit plan for each
WHEREAS, the Board strives to make sound and reasoned decisions regarding District
resources that properly account for current conditions and also ensure the District's ability to
provide quality and efficient service to the community in the future; and
WHEREAS, the following changes are made pursuant to the District's Labor Relations
Policy and Plan (attached as Exhibit A), as well as the District's Compensation Philosophy
(attached as Exhibit B), for example, all changes are consistent with principles of fairness,
transparency, fiscal sustainability and accountability; and
WHEREAS, the Fire Chief has recommended that various District practices and
policies be amended and improved to ensure that the District is acting efficiently pursuant to
best practices; and
WHEREAS, the changes are designed such that no employee will see a reduction in
their gross hourly rate; and
WHEREAS, on September 21, 2011, the District invited the Union to meet and confer,
and sent a list of initial proposals that encompassed the issues covered by this resolution, for
purposes of negotiating a comprehensive successor MOU; and
WHEREAS, by letter dated September 29, 2011, the Unionthrough its legal
counseladvised that the Union would "not resume negotiations with the District," and made
any negotiations contingent on the District proposing a salary increase; and
WHEREAS, the Union has previously declined numerous invitations to return to the
bargaining table to negotiate with the District; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Directors of the Menlo
Park Fire Protection District that the following provisions are effective immediately upon
adoption of this resolution:
Affirmation of District Policy
1. The District reaffirms its Labor Relations Policy and Plan (attached as Exhibit A),
as well its Compensation Policy (attached as Exhibit B). This resolution is intended to
implement these District policies.
2. The District reaffirms its commitment to observe the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act
("MMBA"), and to meet and confer with labor regarding all matters within the scope of
representation. Notwithstanding the Union's refusal to negotiateto datethe District invites
the Union to meet and confer concerning any impacts stemming from this Resolution.
Furthermore, all items in this resolution that are mandatory subjects of bargaining shall be
subject to future negotiation when the Union chooses to return to the bargaining table to
negotiate a successor memorandum of understanding.
3. The District hereby adopts the following classifications for non-management
All other job classifications covering fire suppression personnel are hereby deleted. Incumbents
in any classification which is deleted shall be re-classified in one of the foregoing classifications
according to their credentials. For example, Firefighters who hold paramedic certification shall
be classified as "Firefighter-Paramedic," Firefighters who possess a valid EMT certificate shall
be classified as "Firefighter-EMT," and so on. This rank structure facilitates the District's
elimination of separate pay premiums, consistent with its Labor Relations Policy and Plan.
4. The hourly rate schedules applicable to non-management classifications, and
monthly salaries for Battalion Chiefs and Division Chiefs, are set forth in Exhibit C to this
resolution. Any increases or decrease in the hourly rate and salary schedules shall be subject to
approval by the Board of Directors.
5. The Fire Chief shall "y" rate any incumbent who would otherwise suffer a base
wage reduction by virtue of this resolution.
6. The Fire Chief shall have the authority to establish regular pay periods, and to
declare any appropriate work period under Section 7K of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Unless
the Fire Chief institutes a different schedule, pay days shall be bi-monthlyon the 15th day and
the last day of each month.
7. Supplemental Earnings: All "Supplemental Earnings" (formerly referred to as
"Acting Pays") are set forth in Exhibit D attached hereto.
8. The eligibility of new hire firefighters (Firefighter-Academy, Firefighter-Trainee
and Firefighter-Probationary) for wages and benefits is set forth in Exhibit E attached hereto.
Health and Welfare Benefits
9. The Fire Chief shall maintain a simple health and benefit program that is
transparent and easily understood by the public. A summary of the benefits program is attached
hereto as Exhibit F.
10. Consolidation of Leave: In order to promote transparency and administrative
efficiency, the District shall phase out the multiple leave balances and implement a single Annual
Leave program for those ranks specified in paragraph 3. As part of the District's effort to
minimize long term fiscal liabilities, the annual leave cap for all 56 hour employees shall be 480
hours; for all 40 hour Senior Inspector employees, the cap shall be 320 hours. All annual leave
hours currently held by any employee in excess of the applicable cap will be cashed out. Details
regarding the program are included in Exhibit G attached hereto. All remaining Extended Sick
Leave (ESL) hours will be converted to 25% of their current balance and added to the
employee's annual leave bank (subject to the cap of 480), with any excess hours deposited to the
employee's PEHP account.
11. Retiree Medical Program: For current retirees already receiving a retiree medical
benefit, the benefit shall remain unchanged. For employees hired on or after January 1, 2012,
the District shall no longer make a separate contribution to retiree health. For current safety
employees, the Fire Chief shall implement a buy-out plan as set forth in Exhibit H attached
hereto. Current safety employees shall be required to select one of the options included in the
buy-out plan, and if they fail to make an election, amounts will be paid in cash.
12. Educational Reimbursement Program: The Fire Chief has sole discretion to
approve or deny reimbursement requests and to determine whether a particular training or class
is or is not beneficial to the District. The Fire Chief shall approve only such requests as the
Chief deems beneficial to the District.
13. New Hires: The Fire Chief shall consider options for developing a "second tier"
retirement program for employees hired on or after January 1, 2012; the options to be
considered shall include both lower level defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans
(such as a 401k). The Fire Chief shall report his findings and recommendation to the Board.
14. Current Employees: Current employees shall pay 75% of any future increases to
the CalPERS employer contribution rate (over the current 25.821%), subject to any applicable
CalPERS rules or restrictions.
Miscellaneous Operational Issues
15. Holiday Work Schedule: There is no modified holiday work schedule for 56 hour
employees. Employees shall adhere to daily and weekly work schedules as determined by the
16. Senior Inspectors:
In order to improve the efficiency and increase the number of productive hours, the
work day for Senior Inspectors shall begin at 7:00 a.m. Each employee shall take a mandatory
staggered minimum lunch, which is unpaid, of thirty minutes. Paid exercise time for Senior
Inspectors is eliminated. Senior Inspectors are exempt from the Wellness Program.
17. In accordance with District needs and the corresponding organization of Station
responsibilities, the position of "adjutant" is hereby eliminated. The incumbent shall be
permitted to remain in this position until January 2, 2012.
18. The Fire Chief shall enforce a requirement that all emergency responders must be
able to return to the District within two hours. Current employees presently residing outside of
this requirement may be grandfathered in unless and until they change residences. All safety
employees hired on or after January 1, 2012, shall be subject to this requirement regardless of
19. The Fire Chief is authorized to implement any practice that, in the Fire Chief's
discretion, enhances the delivery of services, creates efficiencies, improves accountability, or
enhances the health and safety of District personnel. These practices encompass, but are not
limited to: station bid cycles and rotations; assignments; selection of annual leave; trades;
prescheduled "back-fills;" and daily and weekly work schedules. The Fire Chief may implement
any provision encompassed within the District's September 21, 2011, proposal to "maximize
efficiencies in the work schedule." (This proposal is attached hereto as Exhibit I.)
20. The District confirms that it is not bound indefinitely by any provision in the
MOU that expired on June 30, 2008. With respect to future new proposals within the scope of
representation that are not encompassed by this resolution, the Union shall be given the
opportunity to meet and confer as required by State law. With respect to proposals for changes
to matters within the scope of representation encompassed by this resolution, the Union shall be
given the opportunity to meet and confer over impacts as required by State law. Except for
disciplinary appeals, the grievance procedure in the expired MOU is suspended unless and until
the parties reach formal agreement on a successor MOU that contains a grievance procedure.
Employees may continue to avail themselves of the grievance procedure set forth in Policy No.
305, unless and until that policy is amended. (A copy of the current policy is attached hereto as
21. The Fire Chief shall revise the District's personnel and operational policy
manuals. These policies shall be subject to meet and confer, when required by law, but shall
not be subject to the District's impasse resolution procedure.
22. The Fire Chief is hereby empowered to take any actions necessary in the Fire
Chief's discretion to implement the terms of this resolution.
23. If any provision in this resolution is found to be invalid or otherwise
unenforceable, all remaining provisions shall remain in full force and effect. This resolution is
subject to amendment by the Board of Directors pursuant to District policy and State law.
I HEREBY CERTIFY that the above and foregoing resolution was passed and
adopted by the Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District at its special
meeting held on the 28th of October, 2011,