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Elk Grove board votes to support Galt fire merger

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Posted: Wednesday, June 21, 2006 10:00 pm

The first major step leading to Elk Grove taking over Galt's fire protection took place Tuesday, when the Elk Grove Community Services District board voted to submit a merger application.

The Galt Fire Protection District board will consider adopting the same resolution Wednesday.Some of the potential benefits for Galt, according to a consultant's report:

• An extra firefighter at Galt's fire station on Walnut Avenue, which serves the area east of Highway 99.

• Elk Grove providing back-up manpower when Galt firefighters are in training sessions.

• Better-trained firefighters through use of Elk Grove's training center.

• A new fire station near Twin Cities and Christensen roads, west of Galt, provided that the Galt City Council approves a 2,600-home Del Webb retirement community nearby.

Firefighters from both districts have voted to endorse the merger and pending approval by Galt Fire next week, the two districts will develop a management agreement for the districts to, in essence, merge. The agreement would result in the two districts operating together before getting approval by Sacramento County's Local Agency Formation Commission, a multi-agency board that considers boundary changes within the county.

Elk Grove Fire Chief Keith Grueneberg recommends renaming the merged districts the Cosumnes Community Services District. Fire engines and trucks in Galt would continue to have "Galt" painted on them in an effort to maintain community identity, Grueneberg said earlier this year.

Guy Rutter, Galt fire board president, said it looks like the two districts are on the way to marriage.

"We are a little short of funding," Rutter said. "It might be beneficial. We'll have a big base of expertise to draw from, and we really don't have that now."

The two districts operate independently from the cities of Galt and Elk Grove. Both districts are larger than the two cities. Galt serves about 33,000 people on 56 acres in the city of Galt and rural areas to the north, east and west. Elk Grove serves 136,000 residents and covers 106 acres.

What this means to you

For Galt, merging fire operations with the larger Elk Grove Community Services District would bring a larger pool of manpower and finances, plus use of Elk Grove's training center.
Galt firefighters would get pay raises equal to that of their Elk Grove colleagues, but money would be saved by eliminating the Galt fire chief and fire prevention officer positions.
- Source: Zamarripa Consulting

What complicates the merger proposal is that the Elk Grove Fire Department is part of a community services district that also operates Elk Grove's park and recreation system. But Galt's parks are under the auspices of the Galt City Council.

If someone from Galt is elected to the board governing the merged district, a Galt resident would be voting on Elk Grove park issues even though the Galt board member doesn't pay any taxes to support parks in Elk Grove, according to a report by Zamarripa, a consulting firm commissioned by Elk Grove to study how the merger would affect both districts.

The merger proposal calls for the five-member Galt board to serve in an advisory capacity to the Elk Grove Community Services District for two years. In 2008, Galt residents would be eligible to run for board.

Galt Fire board member Dale Templeton said that while he opposes the merger, Elk Grove representatives have done a good job answering questions about the plan.

"I think they have the intention of providing a good service," Templeton said of Elk Grove. "It will make for a more businesslike way of doing things, but I don't know if there will be faster response times."

Templeton also questions whether Galt will be adequately represented on the new Cosumnes board. The main issue would involve Galt board members voting on Elk Grove park issues, he said.

The Galt Fire Protection District board will vote on whether to pursue a merger with Elk Grove at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the main fire station, 229 Fifth St.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

First published: Thursday, June 22, 2006

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