Beginning as early as April, Piedmont and Albany residents could call the same leader "Chief," in an agreement to cut costs and centralize the management of fire services.
The city councils of Albany and Piedmont heard details about the shared-position plan Monday night, and agreed that the arrangement was worth trying in a 12-month pilot project.
Fire Chief Ed Tubbs, who in August, would split his time evenly between Albany and Piedmont. Tubbs told the Piedmont Council Monday that the arrangement would not affect the level of fire and ambulance service Piedmonters have come to expect.
The captains in both departments would continue to be responsible for day-to-day emergency response operations. If Tubbs was needed at a major incident in either city, he said, "at worst I'd be at a meeting 15 or 20 minutes away."
The transition will mark the end of nearly two decades of service by Albany by , who officially retired last summer, but has been working part-time in Albany on a salary-only basis.
Piedmont will net a savings of about $111,000 from the trial, according to figures provided by Piedmont City Administrator Geoff Grote. Albany initially will save $85,000 annually, said Albany City Manager Beth Pollard.
Tubbs would get a 10 percent raise for the extra work of managing two departments, for a total of about $266,750 in salary and benefits. He would continue to be a Piedmont municipal employee, with Albany reimbursing the city for its share of his pay.
Noting that fire service agreements between other cities have met with both great success and colossal failure, Grote said Piedmont and Albany will tip-toe into the partnership by splitting just the chief's duties for now. If the experiment goes well, he said, the departments could investigate sharing training, equipment or operations to reduce costs in the future.
Grote said the similarities between the Piedmont and Albany departments—both have just one station from which they provide fire and paramedic services—bode well for the experiment.
Pollard pointed out that the 20-minute distance between the two cities could pose a challenge, adding that other cities with similar agrreements often are adjacent to each other.
Only one member of the public spoke to the Albany City Council about the matter.
"You are tinkering with a very, very finely tuned formula that's worked well for a long time," said local attorney and environmentalist , who added that the city should be "extremely careful" about how it proceeds.
Albany acknowledged that the city would lose "totally centralized control" of its fire services.
"That being said, these are tough budget times, and this cuts off a third of our (projected) budget problems (in the coming year)," he said.
In Piedmont, residents George Kersh and George Childs stepped up to praise the plan as a cost-saving measure.