The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors heard a presentation from the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District last week in which the agency's chief made the case for using Measure X funds to support the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District's communications center and adopt it as a backup for emergency calls throughout the county.
CCCFPD Chief Lewis Broschard was among the representatives for numerous agencies and organizations at the Sept. 19 supervisors' meeting who gave a presentation detailing why the body should vote to allocate funds to specific projects and goals throughout the county.
The funds in question are those from the county's Measure X fund, a half-cent sales tax that was passed by voters in 2020 and went into effect in 2021, with supervisors hearing presentations at the recent meeting ahead of hearing recommendations from the Measure X Community Advisory Committee in the coming months and casting their votes on how to allocate unused funds beyond the approximately $4.7 million in ongoing annual funds.
"We don't fully know any amount above that," Board Chair John Gioia said at the Sept. 19 meeting. "What departments were asked to do is present any other or additional program requests for Measure X funds not knowing how much we're going to have to allocate."
One of the focal points of Broschard's ensuing presentation was highlighting the extent of the reach of CCCFPD's communications center and its importance as a dispatch center for a range of services throughout the county, as well as what is at stake when something goes awry.
"Whenever there's a firefighter fatality or a bad issue oftentimes the No. 1 issue we can point to is a communications issue – the hardware and the software has to match up. It has to be seamless across all the agencies," he said.
Among the issues Broschard pointed to was a "monopoly" by Motorola on the market for the high-tech radios used for emergency services and dispatching throughout the county, coming out to about $10,000 for each radio, which has a lifespan of approximately 10 years. With CCCFPD's radio system and broader communications center and equipment due for an upgrade – a request by the agency that was not approved in early Measure X funding allocations in 2021 – he pointed to the agency's efforts to upgrade communications infrastructure with their own funds.
"As you all know, we are endeavoring to use our own funds to upgrade Con Fire's communication center, and it's not just Con Fire's, it's the Contra Costa Regional Fire Communication Center," Broschard said.
He noted that the center provides dispatch services for medical emergencies as well.
The current problem with this, according to Broschard, is that there is no backup for the center, which could lead to numerous consequences should anything go wrong with its physical or technological infrastructure.
"There is right now no capable resilient sizable backup to what is essentially the county's fire and dispatch center," Broschard said. "San Ramon Valley right now is the only agency capable of providing these services with a computer aided dispatch system, with fire based dispatchers, with fully accredited medical emergency dispatchers, they are the only ones capable of providing that type of service."
As such, he urged the board to consider funding that would aid his agency's goal of supporting the SRVFPD communications center and upgrades, and going through the process of making a backup center for services provided at CCCFPD's communications center.
"In order to ensure we have that reliability and capability, we're looking to support San Ramon Valley's communications center so we as Confire can have continuity of services for all the different agencies we serve as well," Broschard said.
In total, Broschard asked the board to consider approving $10 million in funding to support upgrades and expansions to the SRVFPD communications center, as well as $17 million in funding for a South County Regional Training Center that would contend with current limitations to training opportunities at the current CCCFPD site, as well as $5.6 million for new emergency radios.
The next step for Measure X funds is a review of existing projects, new requests, and the overall state of the funding pool by the Measure X Community Advisory Committee, who will make recommendations on funding allocations to the board ahead of November, when the final amount of unallocated funding will be confirmed.