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Carlsbad says no to joining coastal city fire pact

REGION — Carlsbad has turned down an invitation to join Encinitas, Solana Beach and Del Mar’s 7-year-old fire-services cooperative.

The coastal cities had reached out to Carlsbad to gauge its interest in joining the seven-year-old cost-saving arrangement, in which the cities share the cost of labor of deputy chief, battalion chiefs and a fire chief.

Encinitas City Manager Karen Brust delivered the news at the beginning of a discussion on the City Council’s agenda in which the topic was discussed, reading an email from Interim Carlsbad City Manager Kathy Dodson that she received just before the meeting.

“Carlsbad is dedicated to collaborative fire services delivery, but after analyzing the MOU we don’t feel that joining it is in our best interest at this time, “ Brust said, reading Dodson’s words. “We would be willing to consider some type of collaborative structure in the future.”

Since 2009, the three coastal cities have contracted together in an effort to get rid of duplicate management positions and save money. Rancho Santa Fe was also a part of the cooperative, but withdrew in 2013.

The cities estimate that they’ve saved at least $350,000 a year by sharing the personnel costs. Encinitas alone has saved over $500,000 the past two years, interim fire chief Michael Stein said.

Carlsbad, which has more people than the three member cities combined, has the same amount of fire stations as Encinitas — six. The department has an $18 million annual budget and a workforce of 90 staff and 130 volunteers. Officials there confirmed they were approached about joining the cooperative and are reviewing the proposal.

In December, the Encinitas City Council directed City Manager Karen Brust to reach out to Carlsbad interim City Manager Kathy Dodson to assess the city’s interest in joining the group and directed Brust to delay the recruitment of a new fire chief to replace Mike Daigle, who recently retired. Brust met with Del Mar and Solana Beach’s city manager a day later to tell them of the development and spoke with Dodson shortly thereafter.

Dodson later told Brust that Carlsbad Fire Chief Michael Davis would be preparing a report and would have an assessment of the agreement by mid-January.