The Mount Shasta City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday evening giving direction to city staff and the Fire Department to meet and create possible solutions to the Fire Department’s staffing struggles.

Suggested solutions and their fiscal impacts will be brought back to Council to possibly develop a Memorandum of Understanding.

The City Council also approved that Mount Shasta City appropriate $1,000 for the Best of Mount Shasta event and approved a revised Mid-Year Budget Review.

Fire Department staffing

Before passing a resolution to develop possible solutions to the Mount Shasta Fire Department’s staffing issues, the City Council heard reports from members of the Department.

According to a city staff report, the Mount Shasta Fire Protection District joined Mount Shasta City fire staff in 2016, which, essentially, merged the two fire departments into one. The combined departments operate under one title, Mount Shasta Fire. One of the primary reasons for the consolidation was a declining number of volunteers at each department.

The Fire Department asked that the City Council give direction on incident responses, staffing hours and scheduling; salary, overtime pay, and stand-by pay.

According to a report from Fire Chief Matt Melo, the lack of current volunteers means paid personnel are frequently the only firefighters responding to calls. This is especially true for non-fire calls and calls occurring between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.

The Fire Department is asking for a clarified, written policy for when paid firefighters receive overtime pay.

Mount Shasta Fire Department also looked into the change of work schedules for firefighters to make up for the lack of volunteers.

The department is currently operating on a shift comprised of four, 10-hour shifts per work week. This has the potential to negatively impact the City’s ISO rating if paid fire department personnel are responding during regular work hours, which could affect the cost and ability for residents to acquire homeowner’s insurance.

A few alternative options are: moving the Fire Department to a traditional staffing pattern of 48 hours on-shift followed by 96 hours off; hourly compensation or a stipend of $200 per day for a volunteer to cover a 24-hour shift; or let the City explore a contract with CAL FIRE, which could cost the City a substantial amount of money.

Battalion Chief Jonathan Duncan, Captain Marquis Smith, and Captain Tom Haistings addressed the Council and presented the excessive training needed for volunteer firefighters as well as what a normal shift would entail.

Captain Smith stated, “I was going to explain to you what a typical shift for me is like, but honestly, there is no such thing as a typical shift.” He said, “Monday’s shift began when we were dispatched to a structure fire at 2:28 a.m. By the time the fire is extinguished, hoses are cleaned, and engine re-complimented, it is 6:30 a.m., and I have enough time to go home, shower, and take my daughter to daycare before I go back to the station to start my next shift at 8:00 a.m.”

Smith continued to describe his shift and ended with, “At 6 p.m. on Wednesday, we don’t get to go home. We had mandatory fire meeting and training with our volunteers. When I got home after that, my wife and daughter had already eaten and went to bed.”

Battalion Chief Duncan stated, “One thing I like to tell our firefighters is – train like your life, fellow firefighters, and the ones your helping depends on it, because it does. For one to be an asset to the department depends on their availability to attend training, but there is always room for those that want to contribute and commit to the department.”

Captain Haistings stated, “We don’t know what is coming next, but what I do know is that we make a difference in people’s lives.” He continued, “One thing I know as a volunteer is that being a firefighter is the most rewarding job you can do. Having the ability to help those you may or may not know in their moment of crisis is worth all of the dedication and training. So far I have found myself on the roof of a home putting out a flu fire, extricating a young lady from her car that was buried in the manzanita off the side of the freeway, to helping a senior citizen who had fallen on the floor and couldn’t get up, to performing CPR on the pastor of my church – these are the things we do.”

Council member Paul Engstrom made a motion to direct staff and the Fire Department to get together and start pursuing a resolution to the issues, as well as bringing back to Council the fiscal impacts of the resolutions. With a second from Tim Stearns, the motion passed unanimously.

Donation for annual Best of Mount Shasta event

The Council voted 3-2 to approve the appropriation and donation of $1,000 in support of the annual Best of Mount Shasta event. According to a city staff report, the Downtown Enhancement Advisory Committee unanimously voted to recommend that the donation. The recommendation was subject to the Best of Mount Shasta event obtaining the balance of the funds necessary to retain George Noory, a popular public speaker, for the event in the amount of $20,000.

The $1,000 would come from the Downtown Enhancement Committee’s funds according to city staff.

Stearns said he believed it would be best to go with the Downtown Enhancement Committee’s recommendation, and he made a motion to fund the $1,000, provided the money is used for George Noory and that the event be held downtown in Mount Shasta. With a second from John Stackfleth, the motion passed 3-2 with Stackfleth and Barbara Wagner opposed.

Mid-year budget review

The Council unanimously approved a mid-year budget review and adjustments. According to a staff report, the finance department prepared a 2017-18 Revised Operating Budget for City Council approval. The budget review, in total, shows that the General Fund Budget has an increased revenue of $23,535. The changes were an increase of $1,500 in the taxes category for business licenses, an increase of $1,300 in the special fire account, an increase of $500 for animal shelter fees, an increase of $1,500 due to use permits, an increase of $6,235 for self-insurance rebates, an increase of $5,000 for garage services, and an increase of $7,500 for non-governmental grants.

Stackfleth made a motion to approve the budget review. With a second from Stearns, the motion passed unanimously.

Library Architectural and Environmental Agreement

The Council voted to table the item to a future agenda as recommended by the Library Tax Advisory Committee. Mayor Kathy Morter suggested continuing the item to another night. She wants to be responsive to the LTAC and honor their request to extend the time given for the discussion and that the Council consider some of their concerns. Wagner stated that she wanted to schedule the discussion earlier rather than later. A motion was made by Stackfleth to table the item for a future agenda. With a second from Engstrom, the motion passed 4-1 with Wagner opposed.