An innovative one-year pilot program where the cties of Piedmont and Albany have shared the services of Fire Chief Ed Tubbs comes up for renewal next month.
Piedmont City Manager Geoffrey Grote said this week that while the decision on whether to continue the program lies with the city council, he considers the experiment a success.
"It's more work for Ed Tubbs," he said, "but the job is getting done and it's much more financially efficient."
It's more than the money Piedmont saves on Tubbs' salary, Grote said. The job-sharing program also benefits both cities in areas like training and purchasing, and gives them more clout in dealing with regional agencies.
For example, Grote said, the Piedmont Fire Department by itself is too small to get discounts on major equipment purchases from manufacturers. But working in tandem, the Piedmont and Albany departments are able to negotiate for better prices.
The experiment started in April 2011, following the retirement of Albany Fire Chief Marc McGinn. Under the agreement, Tubbs got a 10 percent raise for the extra work of managing two departments, for a total of about $266,750 in salary and benefits. He continues to be a Piedmont municipal employee, with Albany reimbursing the city for its share of his pay.
The program saved Piedmont about $111,000 in its first year, while Albany saved about $85,000.
Captains in both departments continued to be responsible for day-to-day emergency response operations.
Other East Bay cities have also looked at ways to save money on fire services, Grote said. Pleasanton and Livermore merged their fire departments into a single agency several years ago. Newark and Union City have contracted with the Alameda County Fire Department to provide services, something that Emeryville is also considering. Even the state's CalFire is exploring the idea of contracting out some services to local fire departments.
Grote said he'd like to look at a multi-year agreement with Albany, with a standard termination clause in case conditions change.
The agreement will come before the Piedmont City Council at either its April 2 or April 16 meeting. The Albany City Council voted in favor of continuing the program in January.
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