After nearly two years of legal wrangling, the city of Lodi and San Joaquin County have reached a tentative settlement regarding fire and ambulance dispatching.
The county's Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider the settlement terms, which Lodi's City Council approved Feb. 20. City officials didn't want to disclose exact details until after the settlement is approved, though the county issued a press release Thursday outlining the basic terms.
Through the settlement, Lodi would have one year to take over all emergency dispatching. Until then, firefighters will still be dispatched by Stockton Fire, and ambulances will be sent by their company, American Medical Response.
In other words, everything is status quo for the next year, said Deputy City Attorney Janice Magdich.
"Nothing changes, and it doesn't cost the city taxpayers anything," she said.
Lodi has handled the litigation without contracting outside attorneys, and the settlement does not order the city to pay any of the county's fees, Magdich said.
The issue has simmered since early 2006, when the county signed a contract with AMR to dispatch all medical and fire calls.
Most agencies made the transition, but Lodi, Stockton and Manteca balked. Lodi officials have maintained that they don't like the idea of a private company holding so much power and responsibility.
A 911 call will be answered by a dispatcher in Lodi's West Elm Street police station. The dispatcher will send appropriate police officers and firefighters, and will notify American Medical Response, the county's only company that provides ambulances aside from medical helicopters.
That process is different from the current method. Now, a 911 call is answered by a police dispatcher. If the caller needs medical or fire assistance, the call is transferred to AMR's LifeCom dispatch center in Salida, and AMR then sends ambulances and notifies fire.
Additionally, Lodi had an agreement with Stockton Fire since 2000, and Lodi had to give Stockton a year's notice before ending the contract.
In June 2006, the county filed suit against all three cities, and at that point Lodi gave Stockton Fire its one-year notice, Magdich said. That contract ended last summer and the cities now contract on a month-to-month basis.
Now Lodi has until February 2009 to assume all emergency dispatching, which will be assumed by police dispatcher/jailers. The City Council in January set aside $190,000 for new equipment and training, and the city began advertising for dispatcher positions.
About 250 people applied, and applicants will take a written test later this month, Lodi Police Capt. Gary Benincasa said Thursday. Those who pass the test will then go through a round of interviews, and then the next step is a background check.
Ranking police and fire officials have also talked to all three shifts of firefighters and are talking to all police dispatchers to make sure the transition is "transparent," Benincasa said.
"We want to make sure there's no misunderstandings, there's no rumors," he said.