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County Approves Consultancy For Fire Dept. Efficiency

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved county fire officials’ request to hire a consulting firm, at a cost of $208,000, to help craft a strategic plan identifying how the department can be more efficient in the years to come.

“This is an effort to develop a road map for the future,” Riverside County Fire Department Battalion Chief Tracy Hobday said Monday. “The last strategic plan was done in 1987. It’s time for a new one.”

Under the contract, San Jose-based Management Partners Inc., which, according to its Web site, specializes in “all aspects of government management,” will spend 11 months taking surveys and working up financial and statistical models spotlighting how fire department operations may be affected by changes in population, zoning, transportation and other issues over a 20-year span.

“This is about examining where we can make ourselves better and where we’re OK,” Hobday said. “We need to look at standards of coverage, the appropriate response time for different types of communities — low-density versus urban … If we can strategically place (fire) stations, that’s a very important issue in eliminating extra crews and preventing overlap, or `underlap.”‘

He said the consultants, including retired fire chiefs and financial planners, will coordinate with fire department staff, community leaders and other “stakeholders” to come up with guidelines on how to allocate resources over the next two decades.

“We’ll ultimately be writing our own strategic plan, but with their guidance and recommendations,” Hobday said.

He said ferreting out cost-savings measures will be key to the new plan, the first phase of which will be targeted for implementation in early 2010.

According to Hobday, the plan likely will be a work-in-progress, with modifications made based on need.

Hobday said county capital improvement funds, which cover a range of expenses, will be utilized for the strategic study, and no money will be transferred from equipment budgets that fund the purchase of fire engines or other hardware.

The fire department’s coverage area encompasses most of the county’s 7,300 square miles and includes 18 contract cities.

County fire personnel are employees of the California Department of Forestry, or Cal Fire, which has contracted to provide service in Riverside County since the 1920s.

KESQ News Team

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