http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/10/24/presenting-the-past-dougherty-regional-fire-authority


DanvilleSanRamon.com

Living - October 24, 2008

Presenting the Past: Dougherty Regional Fire Authority

by Beverly Lane

A new fire protection agency was created in 1988 after new cities Dublin and San Ramon incorporated in the early '80s. Sparks always seem to fly around fire service proposals and the new Dougherty Regional Fire Authority was no exception.

First a little history. In Dublin and in San Ramon south of Montevideo, a community services district had provided fire and other government services for decades. Originally called the Parks Services District (for Camp Parks) in 1953, the district provided water for agriculture and covered 2,175 acres.

In 1960 this district was transformed by developers Bob McLain and Ken Volk and re-named the Valley Community Services District, which served thousands of new homes. Under Volk-McLain's auspices, the district expanded to 5,900 acres, covered Dublin and South San Ramon and was headed by five elected directors. They provided water, garbage, sewer, park and recreation services, as well as fire protection. In 1977 the board changed the name to the Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD).

When Dublin incorporated in 1981 and San Ramon in 1983, the cities set up a joint committee to negotiate the future of DSRSD services. The initial committee included Pete Snyder from Dublin, Joe Covello from the district and Wayne Bennett from San Ramon. Dublin's Linda Jeffery and San Ramon's Rick Harmon also participated regularly. The group discussed and designed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which would re-assign the district's services.

One observer said that a more volatile group of players could hardly have been imagined.

Finally, an MOU was agreed to by the cities, the district and the two counties. The Dougherty Regional Fire Authority (DRFA) was created and began fire protection service June 1, 1988, in South San Ramon and Dublin. The first six-member board included Mary Lou Oliver, Wayne Bennett and Rick Harmon from San Ramon, and Linda Jeffery, Pete Snyder and Georgean Vonheeder from Dublin. Community buildings, parks and garbage services went to each city, while water and sewer services stayed with DSRSD.

The debate over fire services for San Ramon moved to a different setting. The articulate and vocal Joe Covello, who served on both the DSRSD board and the San Ramon Parks Commission, believed that San Ramon should have its own fire agency. He opposed the annexation of Tassajara Fire to the SRVFPD in 1990 and wanted to create a San Ramon Fire District. Some members of the San Ramon Council agreed with him, but not all of them.

Discussions about San Ramon's and Dublin's fire future went on for nearly a decade. Livermore and Pleasanton were setting up a new fire district and Dublin could join that district. The San Ramon Council discussed two options: having DRFA join the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District (SRVFPD) or join the proposed Tri-Valley FPD (with Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore). There were concerns over costs, firefighter salaries, voting power on the fire board, etc.

Pat Boom, who was elected to the San Ramon Council in 1989 after serving on the SRVFPD Board, thought it would be best to have the San Ramon portion of the DRFA annex to the SRVFPD. When Curt Kinney became San Ramon mayor in 1996, he pressed for a decision. The San Ramon Council finally decided economic advantages were overwhelming, since the SRVFPD would be supported by property tax dollars and the city would no longer have to use its general fund to pay for the fire function.

Fire services were finally sorted out when Livermore and Pleasanton created the Valley Fire District and Dublin joined the Alameda County Fire District. DRFA joined the San Ramon Valley District in 1997. Today the SRVFPD covers 155 square miles and is recognized for its high level of fire protection and emergency services.

Sources: Village Pioneer 1962; Valley Pioneer Sept. 12, 1988; The Valley Times March 20, 1968; Newsline (DSRSD newsletter) Jan. 1988; San Ramon Valley Times 1991, Jan. 29, 1996, May 25, 1997; interviews with Phillip Phillips, Paul Ryan, Joe Covello, Richard Fahey, Linda Jeffery, Pat Boom.

Beverly Lane is curator of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley and co-author of "San Ramon Valley: Alamo, Danville, and San Ramon" and "Vintage Danville: 150 Years of Memories."

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