The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday evening to approve a plan to shutter four fire stations a month after voters rejected a parcel tax measure meant to prevent the closures.
The cost-saving service reduction plan drafted by Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Chief Daryl Louder comes a month after Measure Q, a $75 annual parcel tax designed to help close the district's $17 million budget deficit, failed to receive a two-thirds "super majority" vote.
Stations located at 700 Hawthorne Drive in Walnut Creek, at 6500 Center Ave. in Clayton, at 1240 Shell Ave. in Martinez and at 4007 Los Arabis Ave. in Lafayette are set to close in January. The Lafayette station has been temporarily closed since June.
Those stations were selected for closure based on their location, call volume and emergency risk factors in the surrounding communities, fire officials said.
The closures will leave Walnut Creek with only three stations, Martinez and Lafayette with just two each, and Clayton without any fire station.
"We know that with longer response times, we have increased safety concerns for the public and increased safety concerns for our firefighters," Louder said. "We will continue to monitor the impact, monitor response times and evaluate the situation."
Louder said the closures, while a drastic measure, are the only viable alternative available since the fire district has spent through its reserves after years of falling property tax revenue and soaring pension and health care costs.
The chief explained that the district's personnel have taken pay cuts and contributed more to their pension and health care costs in recent years, but have been unable to solve their fiscal dilemma.
The plan is expected to save the financially embattled district $3 million over the next six months, according to the chief. The district's current annual budget is over $102 million.