Delano moves ahead to start its own fire department

DELANO, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The latest offer by the Kern County Fire Department to negotiate a new contract with the city of Delano has been rejected, said Delano Mayor Grace Vallejo.

The move means Delano will proceed with plans to replace Kern County services with a city of Delano fire department by July 1.

"I was hoping we could stay with the county, but at the same time I have responsibility to the city and its residents as to what we spend for the service that we get," said Vallejo.

Last week, the Delano City Council voted 3-2 not to renew its contract for fire protection with the Kern County Fire Department.

The current contract is worth $3.2 million and expires at the end of June. The cost to the city is excessive, said Vallejo. Delano would like to see costs brought down to around $2 million to $2.1 million.

The City Council gave the county fire department until March 7 to come up with an offer. Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall submitted a proposal costing a total of $2.7 million, said Vallejo. She said that figure was higher than what the county had offered in January, when it offered $2.6 million.

Vallejo said the city has done its homework, and, after crunching the numbers, concluded that Kern County Fire had been overcharging the city.

Vallejo said Kern County fighters have done an excellent job in providing service to the city and had nothing but praise for firefighters.

The Delano City Council will hold a special meeting on Thursday to vote on purchasing two new fire engines as it moves forward with plans to start its own fire department.

"Once that happens and we've committed and contracted, there's no turning back," said Vallejo.

Kern County Fire Department spokesman Sean Collins said the department had not yet been officially notified by the city of Delano that the offer made had been rejected and could not comment on whether the department plans to make yet any more offers to Delano.