Belmont, San Carlos to vote on joint fire department 

If approved by the San Carlos and Belmont City Councils today and Tuesday, respectively, the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department will finally have a stable joint-powers agreement to outline how much of the $12 million budget each city must pay.

"I’m hopeful that we’ll both pass it and we’ll be able to move into the new fiscal year in July with a new agreement and be able to concentrate on the fire department instead of working on saving the fire department," San Carlos Councilman Bob Grassilli said.

Because the possibility of disbanding was looming over the department, fire Chief Doug Fry said he postponed filling vacant positions and upgrading outdated equipment.

He is optimistic about the new agreement being approved by both cities, and is already planning to fill three empty positions by the end of the year.

"In this budget coming up, I have a system in place to begin replacing our older vehicles and equipment," Fry said. "We’ll also start to build a reserves component for the first time ever."

The cities are currently splitting the cost evenly, but Belmont officials objected to that arrangement, arguing the split was not fair to their city. The proposed new funding split is based on population, assessed property values, number of fire companies and number of calls in each city. Belmont will pay the smaller portion of approximately 47.7 percent.

Belmont Mayor Coralin Feierbach said she was pleased that the animosity between the two cities has faded, so both councils can focus on their individual goals.

Grassilli said the 52.3 percent San Carlos must pay is a fair division now, but as property values rise and San Carlos expands, he’s concerned that the balance could tip further and end up costing the city a larger percentage.

"What’s going to happen is going to happen. We’re just going to have to do our best and try to deal with it," he said.

Grassilli and Feierbach both said that their respective councils now need to look at spending and make sure the funding this agreement calls for is available. Feierbach suggested that a voter-approved tax may be necessary, something both cities unsuccessfully tried to do twice.

The Belmont City Council will vote on the joint powers agreement on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in council chambers at One Twin Pines Lane. San Carlos will vote April 9 at 7 p.m. in council chambers at 600 Elm St.

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