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Ruffalo: Consolidated firefighting resources may soon be spread thinner

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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A quick check of the schedule shows two rather interesting and perhaps — heated — meetings are in the works. On July 21, the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District’s directors gather to discuss — what else — budget cuts. Being a columnist with a whole lot of time in grade, I know perfectly well that the word “Draconian” needs to be tossed into the piece right about here. After all, how can journalism properly present any budget story without tossing in a word of which few — including most scribes — know the full meaning? But we don’t need it here, because the directors know full well that they’re coming up about a half-million bucks short of any budget of Draconian measure, and are a whole lot shorter than where it should be. If you talk with Consolidated Fire Chief Tim Fike, he’ll quickly give you the reasons for the financial shorts. Lack of tax and mitigation revenues (thanks, environmentalists), along with skyrocketing costs to keep up with workers compensation requirements (thanks, state government). If I were a betting man — and I’ll give you four-to-one I’m not — I’d put the farm on the directors wanting to hike the district’s annual assessment fee, which currently runs at $106. Normally, that amount would be cheap at twice the price, and considering the alternative, it’s a good deal no matter what level that charge hits. But in these red-inked days, John and Joan Q. Public can’t afford another price hike anywhere. That suggested hike should go to the voters for their OK, although in some districts, directors say it’s an already existing fee and can be raised by board approval. Pretty weak, but it’s been done elsewhere, although I recall that some of those boards suffered, well, recall for such impudence. So, should the voters turn down the rate-increase request, that board probably has little choice other than to cut back on some services. It has already been rumored that the board has targeted three fire stations for so-called brownouts, which are drastic cutbacks in personnel and the like to where said stations will have to close a day or two per month, or even week. By the way, one of those three stations is said to be Alta Sierra, which really isn’t in a position to have any firefighting service cutback. We’ve already seen what such trimming can do for fire safety, thanks to the one-hour wait that the recent South Sacramento hazmat incident faced while waiting for a Roseville unit to take the place of a missing Sacramento battalion ... Speaking of fires: No doubt there will be flames to be fanned at the upcoming meeting of the Placer County Republican Central Committee (PCRCC). As I wrote earlier, that group of tin-horn politicians received a letter from state elected officials Ted and Beth Gaines and Doug LaMalfa “suggesting” the central committee clean up its act. That missive requested some real reactionary stuff, such as making its financial statements public and allowing members to be in the loop. Well, in case you haven’t heard, the PCRCC told those elected officials, in so many words, to take a flying leap. Not the brightest move, but then, when’s the last time the PCRCC board was accused of having an abundant supply of smarts? Which may explain why Gaines, Gaines and LaMalfa are rumored to possibly be in attendance at the next board meeting Wednesday. It would be extremely interesting to see central committee honcho Tom Hudson and his minions face these folks in person. After all, it’s one thing to ignore or gainsay a letter. Try telling assembly members and state senators to their faces to take a hike. It’s a whole lot different. Now the central committee takes my advice about every eon or so, so don’t expect them to start now. What I would advise is that it’s not the best idea in the world to have the local Republican Party in the midst of a civil war, especially when the Democrats are so inventive. Hudson and the gang may not have noticed (probably too busy building a bunker), but the Dems have pretty much co-opted the so-called non-partisan county board of supervisors. That group used to be strictly GOP, but now currently has two Republicans, two Dems and Jim Holmes, who now that he’s been told his residence will remain in the third district, will be the Independent he re-registered as. And had Placer County had a strong Republican central committee, who can doubt it would have been re-apportioned like a Balkan state? Jim Ruffalo’s column runs on Sundays. Reach him at jimruffalo@yahoo.com.