Plans move ahead for fire station on north side

Fire Station No. 1

Fire Chief Mike O’Connor told county board members plans are moving ahead on a Fire Station No. 3 near the airport, while a supervisor in the same discussion criticized lacking communication from the city during a recent investigation of the chief.
Additionally during the discussion, the fire chief underscored the lowering of Hollister’s Insurance Services Office rating from 4 to 3, with diminished numbers equating to better service and potentially decreased insurance costs.
O’Connor provided an update on fire department activity since a consolidation between the city and county took effect about 18 months ago. His discussion, requested by Supervisor Robert Rivas, comes shortly after completion of an investigation into nepotism claims from the fire union—an outside investigator ruled the claims were unfounded—and about six months before expiration of the city and county’s initial consolidation contract.
O’Connor on Tuesday talked about progress with plans for a fire station at Aerostar Way and Flynn Road to cover the north part of the county. That would add to the downtown Fire Station No. 1, Fire Station No. 2 at Union Road and Airline Highway, and the San Juan Bautista station.
The north-side station would cover a zone that has experienced nearly 400 response calls this year, O’Connor said.
O’Connor said architectural designs are being put together and a trailer is purchased for the site.
“We’re looking at developing the property and coming back to the board for additional approvals as needed,” O’Connor said.
While touting improved service and lowered response times—they’re averaging about seven minutes—O’Connor also mentioned the lowered insurance rating. He said any number below a 5—where the county and San Juan Bautista sit—is a good figure.
County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa then commented on the rating’s impact on residents. He said it could decrease insurance costs for residents in remote areas such as the San Juan Canyon area.
While much of the conversation had a positive tone, Rivas wasn’t happy with the seven-minute response time and called it “unacceptable.” He also expressed frustration at lacking dialogue from the city during a six-week investigation of O’Connor, who oversees county fire services, which wrapped up earlier this month.
“There needs to be more of that cooperation between our city and county to make this flow more efficiently,” Rivas said.
The supervisor suggested looking into forming a joint powers authority or some sort of district for fire services. He said there are fire districts “all over” Monterey County.
“This plan is great,” he said, “but I think that you really need to take the politics out of it between our board, between council members.”

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