ENCINITAS — Bob Bonde, you have the floor.
After years of trying to pitch his municipal cost-saving plan — which calls for increased ambulance service and the closure of two fire stations — the local activist and president of the Encinitas Taxpayers Association will present his 121-page plan to the Encinitas City Council at tonight’s meeting.
Bonde’s plan is dubbed “Common Sense: Emergency Services Enhancement Program.” It calls for the city to do the following:
- Create its own local ambulance service and boost number of ambulances in the city
- Use the smaller emergency service vehicles to respond to medical calls instead of fire engines
- Cross staff the additional ambulances with existing fire crews
- Close Fire Stations No. 1 and No. 4, in historic Encinitas and Village Park, respectively, which Bonde argues are redundant
- Perform an independent cost benefit analysis of the city’s current emergency services model to see if an alternative would save the city money.
According to the report, Bonde said he believes his plan would save $3.6 million from the closures alone, and the city would see improved emergency response times.
He points to the city of Los Angeles, where the LA Fire Department has deployed more ambulances to improve response times.
“Change is always difficult, but when it comes to public safety, politics must be set aside and only hard facts considered,” Bonde wrote in his presentation to the council. “Council will be thinking outside the box and plowing new ground by supporting this proposal … but the time is right, the need is great and the cause is just.”
Bonde’s most recent attempt to have his plan heard ended up in a small controversy, after he was initially turned away from the city’s Traffic and Public Safety Commission meeting in April before City Manager Gus Vina informed the commission to allow Bonde to speak.
Following the incident, the council voted unanimously to allow Bonde to present the plan at council chambers.
At least one council member expressed skepticism that Bonde’s plan could get beyond the first major hurdle: the city convincing the county, which manages Encinitas’ ambulance service as part one of two county service areas it administers.
County Service Area No. 17 includes Encinitas, Del Mar, Del Mar Heights, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe and portions of Elfin Forest.
Kristin Gaspar said the county — and other cities in the service area — might not sign off on Encinitas’ withdrawal because it will increase costs to the other communities.
“I can’t see any upside for the county to allow the city to withdraw,” Gaspar said. “If the city takes its funding, other surrounding cities are forced to pay more.”
Additionally, Gaspar said, the city potentially would have to create another agency to manage the city’s dealings with insurance companies and Medicare that would be created by taking on ambulance service.
“There are a lot of costs that need to be discussed,” she said.