Residents Angry Over San Miguel Fire's Proposed Move to Cal Fire

The board votes 4-3 to enter into negotiations with Cal Fire to contract out certain essential services.

Close to 200 East County residents packed the student center at Cuyamaca College on Wednesday to voice their frustration over the contracting out services to state agency Cal Fire.

Despite the vehement contentiousness of the crowd, the board voted 4-3 to enter into negotiations with Cal Fire.

In January, San Miguel sent out an RFP to contract out services to any agency that responded with a submission. Only Cal Fire did so.

San Miguel Fire Chief Augie Ghio that the RFP was sent out because the fire district, which serves 150,000 people in Spring Valley, Rancho San Diego, Jamul, Crest and parts of unincorporated La Mesa and El Cajon, "wanted to investigate a better way to do business."

In an article by U-T San Diego about the Wednesday meeting, board member Chris Winter said: “The bottom line is we have a fiscal problem. We have to stop kicking the can. We have to fix this and fix it now.”

Winter cast the final deciding vote, with the board deadlocked at 3-3, according to the paper.

San Miguel is facing a $1.3 million budget defecit this year, its third defecit of more than a million dollars in the last few years. Board members told the crowd that going with Cal Fire could potentially put an estimated $3.2 million back into district coffers, this despite an estimated $1.2 million annual administration fee that Cal Fire would charge to operate the district.


ROBERT PERRY April 28, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Are you mistaken? I was there and the vote was 4 to 3 and there was no deadlock. The 200 people at the meeting were mostly San Miguel firefighters, their friends and their relatives. Many of those do not even live in the fire district The 150,000 "other" residents were hardly noticeable. The 200 people were certainly not representative of the 150,000 actual district residents. CALFIRE is offering the district a lifeline to keep eight engines available for response. Residents don't really care who shows up when they call 911. Even now a San Miguel resident could get an El Cajon or La Mesa fire engine when they call. They don't care about the name on the engine. They just want someone to respond. P.S. If the residents really did want to keep San Miguel personnel they would be willing to pay more taxes to do it.... and they aren't willing as the last benefit election proved.
Komfort April 28, 2012 at 06:37 PM
If the San Miguel personal really wanted to stay in the community they would negotiate their contracts downward...and they aren't willing to do so as the RFP suggests. Will Cal Fire be treated as "scabs" if they can accomplish the same protection as their higher priced colleagues?
Batman April 30, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Grossmont/Mt Helix is right back where they were in the 1960s and 70s - with contract fire protection from California Division of Forestry, now called "Cal Fire". San Miguel Fire District was running a very healthy budget surplus until very recently, and they have been a union shop from the beginning. Something has gone very seriously wrong in a very short time. Perhaps a thorough audit and grand jury investigation are in order.
Kevin George April 30, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Ya, more taxes, that's what they need. The San Miguel Fire District is the poster child for public union pension abuse.
John Davis April 30, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Contacting with CALFIRE does not mean the current employee's are leaving. The district will have the same employees, the same equipment, the same stations. The only changes will be they will wear CALFIRE uniforms, AND work a 72 hour work weeek, instead of a 56 as they do now. That will mean they will work 12 days a month instead of 10 as SMG does now. Now there is a savings you can all support. Remember CALFIRE's services will not what they want, but what the SMG fire board wants to pay for. CALFIRE does not push there way in any agency. The board decides what services they want to pay for and CALFIRE will provide those services. This is NOT big brother taking over. CALFIRE, by law, must provide a RFP if an agency requests one. They do NOT go solicitating service. They can not do that.
Batman April 30, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Cal Fire is a union shop also.
Batman April 30, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Yes, and the fire engines and stations will still belong to San Miguel. Grossmont/Mt Helix got along fine with CDF (Cal Fire) for decades. The County of Riverside as well as most of the incorporated cities in Riverside County use Cal Fire and have been since the 1950s.There will be savings on the management side with Cal Fire but there will be some loss of local control, as there always is with consolidation. My question is why San Miguel all of a sudden went in the tank when they were doing so well for so long?
Komfort April 30, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Komfort April 30, 2012 at 08:49 PM
"3% at 55" is explained here: http://lgcr.sco.ca.gov/CompensationDescription.aspx Don't forget to add health/vision/dental to the "total wages*" for the full impact. *not to be confused with "salary maximum" which is a lower number.
Speak the Truth April 30, 2012 at 09:11 PM
The firefighters have given back more than 24% in wages and benefits over the past three years, which is more than the Fire Chief and the Board have given. Also, at the very start of the meeting the labor group informed the public that the Union offered to the Board another pay and benefit cut worth from 1.3-1.6 million dollars and the Board rejected it. A offer that included a 72 hour workweek. Is it really the budget? Or a pissed off Board, mad because the Union did not support them in the last election? Maybe the employee that have put in 25 to 30 years of service to the San Miguel Fire District should get good pay and benefits, and not the Fire Chief and Board members who serve for 4 to 8 years and then get life time health care and hired back as a " consultant"!
Kevin George April 30, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Didn't I just read about them hiring Maurice Luque? What is up, why do they need a spokeshole? i think they are splitting his $80k with another agency, but what is he doing that chief Ghio can't find the time for?
Batman April 30, 2012 at 09:31 PM
The union has given back nothing, that's not their job.. The residents of San Miguel have brought this down on themselves. As Roger Hedgeock puts it: "it's the union's job to ask for the moon, it's management's job to say NO!" When you elect teachers to your school boards and firemen to your fire boards of course they are going to give away the store to their buddies. What do you expect? People, you have got to think before you vote!
Justin Case May 02, 2012 at 12:08 AM
ROBERT PERRY.... REALLY?? You know all 200 of those people and where they live or are you just trying to suggest your own agenda? You say, "The community doesn't really care who shows up to their house when they call 911"... OMG.. You speak as though you know what your talking about when clearly this must have been your first San Miguel board meeting.
Justin Case May 02, 2012 at 12:09 AM
C'mon BATMAN.... The Firefighters Union is not the problem. They are hated by the Fire Board because they have been very vocal about the Chief and the Board's over spending on non-essential items. The Firefighters Union members have taken tremendous pay and benefit cuts to save the department only to see the savings from their cuts spent on a raise for the Chief, life time medical benefits given out to the Chiefs part-time spokes model (which happens to be his next door neighbor). The board voted to give themselves medical benefits, including lifetime medical for one of them, and they only meet 2 to 3 hours a month for board meetings. When pushed by the community to reduce the size of the board to save district funds, the board voted to save themselves and remain the largest in California. Why does such a small fire district have the highest paid Chief and the largest most highly paid board in California? The Firefighters wanted to know, the community wanted to know, and now the board is making them pay. Yet, with all this abuse to our community and the Firefighters who stood up for them, now the uneducated are saying "the Union Has given back nothing". Hold the leadership accountable for driving this Fire district into oblivion!! You should be ashamed !!
Kevin George May 02, 2012 at 04:43 PM
That is all very interesting and enlightening information Justin. I have been trying to figure out the Maurice Luque fiasco and how it came about. I think you just explained it. Unbelievable.
Gunther Schwartz May 04, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Maurice Luque does not work for the San Miguel Fire District. He works for San Diego City Fire. Leonard Villarreal works for San Miguel Fire District......
Big Red Driver May 05, 2012 at 04:43 AM
The only thing that has changed in the past 5 years is the Chief. He is the only constant and his philosophy on spending is what is wrong with San Miguel. By closing engine 15 3 1/2 years ago the district saved aprox. 1.5 million dollars per year. He continues to spend in areas like the shop whos budget has doubled in the past 4 years even though we have less fire apparatus. The Administration Chief continues to build a structural deficit at an alarming rate every month yet continues to drive a district vehicle home 146 miles round trip to Murrieta, CA. After the Chief Put the District into a fiscal crsis he continues to fly first class around the state on his junkets at District expense.


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