By Galen Patterson
Arcadia’s City Council meeting on Feb. 5 explored a possible partnership between Arcadia and its neighboring community, Sierra Madre.
Former mayor/councilmember of Sierra Madre, Glen Lambden came to the council with a plea about measure 11a on the agenda, conducting a feasibility study for the provision of Fire Response Services to the City of Sierra Madre by the City of Arcadia. Lambden sincerely asked Arcadia not to commit to anything just yet, citing that Sierra Madre is working toward inclusion into a local agreement of emergency services that Sierra Madre has been excluded from because of its traditionally volunteer agency.
Immediately after Lambden spoke, Allen Hodge, a veteran paramedic and member of the Sierra Madre Firefighters and Paramedic Association spoke, asking the council not to approve the plan on the basis of a 50 percent reduction in fire services in Sierra Madre. Sierra Madre once operated on a volunteer Fire Department but has recently transitioned into a full-time department. The cost of doing so has increased the city’s expenses tremendously and the Sierra Madre City Council has already approved a measure to move forward and study the feasibility of Arcadia helping Sierra Madre with their firefighting needs.
“I have a lot of concerns about this, I would like to proceed as a courtesy to City Council of Sierra Madre,” said Councilmember Tom Beck. He immediately expressed concerns about Arcadia’s involvement with Seirra Madre’s firefighting needs.
“The whole hillside burns like every 10 years it seems like,” said Beck. “We want to be a good neighbor, but we gotta take care of Arcadia first,” he said. Sierra Madre would expect Arcadia to respond to between 800 and 1,000 incidents each year.
In 2018, Arcadia responded 17 times to Sierra Madre. Councilmember Peter Amundson expressed his interest in bolstering the under-staffed firefighter station in the North of Arcadia, which could in turn help alleviate the problems that Sierra Madre may have, and assist when necessary.
Councilmember Chandler openly criticized Sierra Madre and encouraged them to develop more effective firefighters and police officers. “Doing a study is just a total waste of money, it ends up the same.” “The only thing they really need to do is tax themselves,” said Chandler.
One item of particular interest is Arcadia’s Fire Department Insurance Services Office (ISO) Class 1 award being in jeopardy. Arcadia FD is currently 1 of 200 fire departments nationwide to earn a Class 1 rating. An agreement between the cities would shrink Sierra Madre’s Fire Department by 50 percent, and drastically increase Arcadia FD’s workload.
However, Arcadia City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto mentioned that Arcadia FD would also be able to enhance their class 1 status through the joint venture, and be able to provide class 1 service to Sierra Madre. “I can’t guarantee that right now, again, we need to study that,” he said.
An increased workload could lead to overworking firefighters, exhaustion, low morale and a general drop-off in quality within the department.
Mayor Sho Tay explained that the agreement at this point would be to conduct a study and not commit to any actual service agreement between the city fire departments.
In the end, the council decided to conduct the feasibility study in a 4 to 1 vote.
The next meeting will convene on February 19, 2019 when the council is expected to tackle historic preservation.