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City rushes to implement new fire model

By: Kathryn Palmer Of The Lincoln News Messenger
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Lincoln is in a time crunch to replace its fire management model following Rocklin’s decision to end the city’s shared fire agreement in November. Rocklin/Lincoln Fire Chief Bill Hack presented five fire management options Tuesday to Lincoln City Council and the public during a special work session meeting in Lincoln.

 

The current model, entered into by both cities in 2016, provides for a shared fire chief, two division chiefs and three battalion chiefs. The fire chief and three battalion chiefs are Rocklin employees, while the two division chiefs are employed by Lincoln. Rocklin will terminate the agreement on June 30 at the end of the current fiscal year.

 

Of the five options presented, one received substantial support and preference from council members and from Chief Hack and interim Lincoln City Manager Jennifer Hanson. This option will be further developed by city staff. However, this preferred plan was presented as a temporary fix that will later be re-evaluated and adjusted. It was not formally voted on by council members and will resurface in an upcoming City Council meeting in the form of contract approvals.

 

“This is a transitional period,” Hanson said. “We don’t feel this is an option that will be going on in five, 10, 15 years. This is the first of many steps.”

 

The recommended option would provide that the current Police Chief Doug Lee serve over both the Fire Department and the Police Department as public safety chief. Three battalion chiefs would be contracted by Lincoln from the city of Rocklin and one of the current division chiefs would manage day-to-day activities of the Fire Department. Additionally, this option will allow for the implementation of an internship program, slated for the next fiscal year. In his report, Hack said that the recommended model would be viable for a minimum of two years.

 

“This option is the only one that has the least amount of impact on other city services,” said Councilman Peter Gilbert.

Lincoln faces a handful of unique obstacles this year, including two interim executive positions and an impending state audit that has the potential to shift priorities and planning objectives. Additionally, Hanson said the primary sources that fund the fire and police departments rely on property and sales tax, and both are constrained. Hanson said Lincoln has a low sales-tax capture rate compared with other cities in the region and that the city doesn’t receive what she called a “fair share” of property tax revenue due to decades-old tax sharing agreements with Placer County. Because of this, Hanson said the city is not currently able to provide a fire management model of only Lincoln employees, which is the city’s ultimate goal.

 

Two Lincoln residents with extensive experience in fire management voiced their concern over what they characterized as a lack of citizen input. “I think it’s a little premature to just look at these five options and then gavel it,” said Lincoln Hills resident John Griffin, who has more than 30 years of fire service experience.

Archie Terry, a Lincoln resident and former Union City assistant fire chief, proposed forming a citizen committee to draw on experience from Lincoln residents.

 

Chief Hack said he will meet with those concerned residents who spoke at the meeting and expressed willingness to discuss the matter with other citizens as well. While they value citizen input, Mayor Pro Tem Dan Karleskint and interim City Manager Hanson said, they are on a tight schedule to fully implement a new fire management plan before the current agreement with Rocklin expires in less than five months. “I think we’re all trying to do the best that we can with scarce resources and the very short timeline we were given,” Councilwoman Alyssa Silhi said.