County likely to boost hazmat pay 

Days past a deadline set by the South County Fire Protection Authority to keep or end its contract to provide countywide hazardous materials services, talks continue and termination appears to be off the table — at least temporarily.

Fire Authority leaders have threatened to sever the contract if the county does not increase payment for hazmat services and reimburse the fire agencies for some past costs. In March, the fire board set an April 8 deadline to continue or terminate its contract with OES if the funds aren’t forthcoming.

County officials, some of whom met with fire board members last week, have responded by including a pay increase in next year’s Office of Emergency Services budget, but refuse to pay any retroactive costs — a sticking point for some Fire Authority board members.

"If they agreed to pay — including the overdue bill, and the item in the new budget — I would be inclined to stay," said Belmont Councilmember Coralin Feierbach, who sits on the fire board.
The hazmat contract allows the South County Fire Protection Authority to be paid as much as $621,000 annually for services. That cap will likely be increased in the 2006-07 fiscal year, once officials agree just how much money is at stake.

Currently, Fire Authority officials believe they are owed nearly $131,000, primarily for the time a battalion chief spends overseeing hazmat operations. County officials, however, say those costs are not included in the current contract.

"That was reported to be a third of the salary, but I don’t know of any battalion chief making that much," County Administrator John Maltbie said. "We need to see if we can nail down those costs."
The OES budget should be complete by the end of April, according to Maltbie.

The South County Fire Protection Authority board will discuss the hazmat contract tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Station No. 14, 911 Granada St., Belmont.

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Beth Winegarner

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