Delano, Kern County Fire Department reach last-minute deal

DELANO, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The Kern County Fire Department will be staying put in Delano for at least another five years.

The Delano City Council voted unanimously Monday evening to accept the terms of a new contract with the Kern County Fire Department.

"I'm elated!" said Delano Mayor Grace Vallejo.

Under the current contract, county fire was charging Delano $3.2 million a year for fire protection. City leaders said that after doing a comparative study, the city found there was inequity in the way county fire was charging Delano compared to other cities.

Contract negotiations had become strained.

"We're in Delano, and sometimes we're looked at as unsophisticated," said council member Joe Aguirre. "But that is not the case today."

Just two weeks ago, the City Council voted to sever ties with county fire and form its own fire department.

The City Council was poised to approve the purchase of two new fire engines for its new city firefighting agency. Once it made the purchase, Vallejo said there would be no turning back.

Kern County Fire then came back with a revised offer. The new offer was for $2,085,821 for FY 2014-15. The price will increase by 3 percent each year to a total of $2,347,610 for FY 2018-19.

The decision to charge a lower cost to Delano came after Kern County Fire did some re-evaluating, said Fire Chief Brian Marshall.

"There was a different methodology between some of our contracts," said Marshall. "That was a methodology that was determined before I even came to work (as chief)."

The cost with the county fire department had come to the attention of Delano City Manager Maribel Reyna several years ago who then brought it to the attention of the city council. Aguirre praised Reyna and City Attorney Bonifacio Garcia in hammering out the terms of a new agreement with Kern County Fire.

The new contract is expected to save Delano more than one million dollars during the first year. Kern County Fire maintains two stations in Delano staffed with a Captain, engineer and firefighter at all times with a total of 18 firefighters.