Opponents of a ballot measure that would provide funding for three firefighter positions in Cambria have filed an argument against Measure A-18.
The opposition argument is signed by five Cambria residents, including former Cambria Community Services District public information officer Tom Gray, who recently sought appointment to the board seat vacated by Greg Sanders in October.
Also in opposition are SLO County town criers Gerald and Beverly Praver; former BAE Systems Aircraft Controls vice president Iggy Fedoroff; and Brian Griffin, 2nd vice commander of American Legion Post 432.
The opponents also filed a rebuttal to the argument in favor of the property tax measure, which would impose an annual levy of $62.15 on every parcel in the district and raise $378,000 a year. CCSD directors voted 4-0 Feb. 8, with Harry Farmer absent, to adopt a resolution putting the issue on the June 5 ballot.
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The “pro” argument was signed by three members of the CCSD board (Amanda Rice, Aaron Wharton and David Pierson), along with CCSD General Manager Jerry Gruber and Fire Chief William Hollingsworth.
They argue that a “yes” vote on the measure would be consistent with federal and state safety requirements, as well as recommendations from the county grand jury, Cambria's Multi-Jurisdictional Local Hazard Mitigation Plan and county’s emergency plan.
A key argument put forth by Hollingsworth and other proponents is that OSHA requires at least two firefighters to remain outside and at least two to enter a burning structure. Four-person engine crews would allow the department to meet this standard.
But opponents argue, in the statement filed with the county, that the Fire Department is “doing a fine job with three-person crews” and that they cannot recall any significant concerns being raised about that staffing level before 2016.
(The district used federal grant money to hire three new firefighters in 2016, and is the measure would pay for continuing those positions after the grant runs out this year.)
Opponents also contend the Cambria Fire Department does not need additional firefighters to meet the “two in, two out” OSHA guidelines for engaging a structure fire. This is because, they say, “our community has not just one but two fire departments. The other one is Cal Fire, which AUTOMATICALLY (emphasis in the document) responds to all fire calls in Cambria.”
Third, they say, the tax “does not protect Cambria from a truly serious threat, that of catastrophic wildfire.”
In their rebuttal, they say the grand jury has not made a recommendation on Cambria Fire staffing levels, and that there’s nothing about a need for extra firefighters in the county’s emergency operations plan.
County Counsel Rita L. Neal has provided an impartial analysis of the measure.
The documents related to the measure are viewable at the San Luis Obispo County website, http://bit.ly/2HCtyOC.