June 27, 2014

Our Views: What cost to keep Modesto’s Fire Station 6 open?

Whether or not the city can find a way to keep Fire Station No. 6 open permanently is open to debate. But keeping it in operation until a decision is made is the right call.

Whether or not the city can find a way to keep Fire Station No. 6 open permanently is open to debate. But keeping it in operation until a decision is made is the right call.

There is no doubt the city must cut its budget. Balancing that with public safety is not easy, and if tax revenues don’t improve by December, it could be impossible.

Still, it’s appropriate for Modesto council members to examine and question the city’s priorities. That’s why they were elected. Councilmen Bill Zoslocki, Dave Lopez and John Gunderson want to keep the station open, but before the council steps away from its current budget plan it must account for the $1.4 million in savings the closure represents. Keeping Station 6 open could mean more than simply not having an important $3 million for the city’s reserve fund.

First, it’s not certain all of that reserve money will ever materialize. Mayor Garrad Marsh said the budget is on shaky ground, and that makes us nervous.

Second, The Bee’s Kevin Valine reported that keeping the station open and fully staffed with nine firefighters would result in $600,000 in overtime costs on top of the $1.4 million. That means the budget could take a $2 million hit. Finally, we’re not sure the unraveling of the Modesto Regional Fire Authority will result in all the savings projected.

Zoslocki mentioned the possibility of rolling “grey outs,” meaning others stations could be closed for short periods while the rest remained open. That spreads the pain among neighborhoods, but runs the risk of not having firefighters where they’re needed. It’s an idea worth exploring, but carefully. For now, the station should stay open. But all options should remain on the table.

Attack of the Mole People

Interesting to see the group of Los Angelenos embracing Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnels project that would suck water out of the north and send it south. The letter’s author (whose name does not appear among the signatories) correctly applauds the L.A. region for having built dams to bolster its water supply. So, if L.A. has enough already, why build tunnels that have the potential to take up to 75 percent of the water that normally flows into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta? The letter says it’s needed to build a “solid statewide foundation.” Except “statewide” really means Southern California. Those who signed the letter include Kathleen Brown (that’s the governor’s sister), former Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor, the former head of Metropolitan Water District and the L.A. Chamber of Commerce. The letter notes it will cost only $2 per month per household. The real cost is likely to be borne by people who live around here and who will see their water reliability diminished so that water can be more reliably sent south. What will be the real cost of these tunnels? We don’t yet know. But we do know that those who will pay it won’t be in Los Angeles.

Fastest election results

It takes too long to get election results in California, but you can’t fault Stanislaus County Clerk Recorder & Registrar Lee Lundrigan. Stanislaus was the first county in the state to certify results for the June 3 primaries. That means all the votes cast on election day, all the absentee ballots and all the votes delivered in advance have been counted. With so many people voting absentee, it has gotten complicated to count California’s votes. That’s why the state gives registrars a month to submit final counts. We’re glad we didn’t have to wait that long here. Interestingly, a higher percentage of people voted in Stanislaus County (26.4) than across the state (25.1), so Lundrigan and her staff deserve even more applause.

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