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LETTERS: Orindans Getting Hosed For Fire Coverage

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Letter to the Editor

A grass roots group of Orinda residents write with their questions and concerns over the financial future of the Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District.

Editor:

The Orinda Emergency Services Task Force (a grass roots group of concerned residents) released a 2013 update to its September 2012 report on the financial and operational status of MOFD, specifically how it pertains to Orinda’s residents and taxpayers. Much has happened in the past year at MOFD including the replacement of a majority of the Board, a new Fire Chief, a new Administrative Services Director (CFO), the realization that their general reserve fund was 100% depleted while they projected a million dollar deficit for the year, and finally the replacement of their long-time auditor. This Update can be found as an Addendum on the Task Force’s web site.

The Task Force was formed in 2011 after Orinda Council Member Amy Worth, supported by a petition from 220 residents, requested that the City Council form a city task force to review the service which MOFD provides to Orinda. The full Council would not bring the motion to a vote with Mayor Smith claiming such a review was not within the City’s “purview.” She suggested that it was the job of the residents to ask MOFD to review itself. This suggestion defeated the true need, an independent audit of MOFD’s services, so a group of citizens formed the Task Force and produced their original 90 page report and now the seven page Update.

In addition to a review of MOFD’s dismal financial performance, the Task Force reiterated what past studies had shown, that Orinda is receiving sub-standard service by many measures. These include: 40 percent of emergencies not being responded to within the six minute benchmark response time; no vegetation reduction plan for large areas of Orinda designated “very high fire hazard severity zone”; and over two dozen substandard fire hydrants, many of which are in the high fire hazard zone. The Update was transmitted to the Orinda City Council with a letter again requesting that the Council take a more active role in representing its residents’ interests to the MOFD.

Over the years, several entities, from individual residents, to Orinda’s Revenue Enhancement Task Force (appointed by the city council), to the grass roots organization FAIR, and now the Task Force, have described how Orinda taxpayers are paying more than their fair share of MOFD’s expenses. The Task Force Update calculates that Orinda taxpayers are now paying $1.3 million per year for each firefighter position stationed in Orinda, 20% more than it costs MOFD, while Moraga taxpayers are only paying $830,000. By not correcting this inequity, not only is the spirit that each community should pay its fair share of MOFD’s costs being broken, but Orinda taxpayers are paying for $2 million of services in Moraga. These are funds that are needed in Orinda for service upgrades. Orinda’s residents’ safety is being compromised and, so far, the Orinda Council has taken no action to address this issue.

Orinda residents need to insist that their elected representatives, both within MOFD and on the City Council, rectify the situation. The means are there to do so even though MOFD is in financial distress. Every day that is delayed is a day closer to a medical emergency being responded to too late or a wildland fire getting out of control without sufficient water to fight it. We request that Orinda residents take action with a letter or email to their elected officials and that Moraga residents show a willingness to accept their fair share of financing the partnership we formed in MOFD.

Signed,

Orinda Emergency Services Task Force

Steve Cohn, Diana Stephens, Bob Mills, Dick James, Vince Maiorana, Joan Daoro, Bailey Lee, and Sandy Gross