Marquez added two items to the City Council agenda.
– A discussion whether the city should request a study to switch over to county fire service.
– And a second discussion regarding a 1998 ordinance requiring that Downey use only city staff for public safety unless two thirds of residents vote to switch to another service.
The issue has been a hot topic the last month after the city cut nine firefighter positions and took a fire engine out of service. The move prompted the city’s firefighters union to ask the City Council to study contracting fire service from the Los Angeles County Fire Department. If the switch were to take place, the city’s fire staff would be absorbed by the county. The county would conduct the study free of charge.
“For me it boils down to quality, safety and service,” Marquez said. “Why not give the residents the best information?”
Councilman Mario Guerra has steadfastly opposed the study.
Marquez was blasted by City Councilman Mario Guerra last week after Marquez asked the discussion be added to Tuesday’s agenda.
Guerra said voters in 1998 voted 85-15 in favor of a charter amendment that required the two-thirds vote before the city could contract out public safety services, such as police or fire.
A look at fire contracts in nearby cities show wildly different rates charged by the Los Angeles County Fire Department. La Habra pays about $7 million a year to staff four fire stations. But, using figures from a 2010 feasibility study in El Segundo, Downey’s fire service would cost about $16.65 million annually to fully staff the city’s four fire stations.
Downey pays about $17.2 million a year to fully staff its fire department.
Marquez said the city doesn’t have enough information to make a good decision. He also mentioned recent allegation that the city was breaking its own laws by contracting out some if its less-urgent paramedic-type service.
Resident Sheila Pautsch recently accused the city of breaking its charter.
“The charter amendment is being interpreted two ways,” Marquez said. “That’s why I put the item on the agenda. I just want to discuss it.”
There’s also a possibility that Marquez could ask the council to put a an item on the Nov. 6 ballot that would lower the threshold to a simple majority for switching over to contracted public safety services.
No matter what happens, voters will make the final decision whether to keep the city’s fire department, Marquez said.
“As a policy maker, I just want to look at the data,” he said. “What’s wrong with that?”