Cambria won’t be losing any firefighters in the coming year.
The services district will pay the salaries of firefighters hired under a federal grant when that grant expires, the board decided Thursday, June 22.
On a 4-1 vote, the board approved a balanced budget that transferred $84,000 from general fund reserves to pay the firefighters’ salaries for the next five years. Director Harry Farmer voted “no” on the budget.
The salaries would be paid for in the long term from garbage franchise fees, increased property tax allocations, hoped-for support from the county tourism board and “funding discipline for major equipment,” said Patrick O’Reilly, the district’s finance manager.
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The firefighters will be converted from the SAFER grant to full-time Cambria Fire status March 1, 2018.
The board heard a report from General Manager Jerry Gruber on problems with leaks that have created increased water loss this year.
Gruber said that, since May 1, the district has repaired 14 leaks, calling some of them “substantial,” but said a suspected leak from the San Simeon well field turned out to be a false alarm: The land there was dry on a third inspection, he said.
Gruber said the district had 13.2 percent of its water unaccounted for in 2016, which is above the industry average of 10 percent “in a perfect world,” Gruber said.
The figure spiked to 41 percent in April and 39 percent in May after heavy rains this winter, he said, but added, “We’re hoping that when we read (the meters) in June, it will be significantly less.
The board also tabled a resolution that would have explored cooperating with Cambria’s health care district on housing for ambulance staff at the fire station on Burton Avenue.
Director Mike Thompson said the Community Services District had meant to explore a temporary option for the ambulance staffers, who have been staying in private homes since storms damaged the station property on Main Street.
Board members expressed concern that the resolution, as written, went beyond that, suggesting it could prove costly for the district and might interfere with a federal grant the health district is seeking to fix the ambulance station.
“This particular co-location would actually increase response times in every single case,” Director Jim Bahringer said. “What is the benefit of this? The cost to our district is going to be significant.”
Directors also expressed concern that the resolution presented for CCSD consideration wasn’t the same as the one the Cambria Community Healthcare District had adopted on a 4-1 vote the previous day.
Health district Trustee Barbara Bronson Gray, the dissenting vote on the CCHD resolution, spoke to the CCSD on Thursday during the public comment period, urging directors not to approve the resolution. She argued that neither agency had the money to spend on a co-location project.
In a special session before the regular meeting, the board talked about negotiating the purchase of the old Cambria Library building in the West Village to relocate the district’s offices there.
“We have the makings of a deal that will come back in July,” said Tim Carmel, district counsel.
Gruber said he believed the district could be out of its current administrative offices at 1316 Tamsen Street, Suite 201, and into the new location by the end of the year.
During public comment, Cambria resident Tina Dickason expressed concern about costs associated with buying and refurbishing the building, as well as about parking access.
Also during the special session, directors discussed performance evaluations for Gruber and Carmel, which will be taken up during the July 27 meeting.