Plan to beef up fire department receives council committee appro - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Plan to beef up fire department receives council committee approval

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The City Council's Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee Wednesday forwarded to the full council a five-year plan to strengthen the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department by adding new stations and staff.

The four members of the committee could not agree to recommend passage to the council because of a lack of funding sources.

The major recommendation from the "Citygate Working Group Report" is to restore eight fire engines taken out of service on a rotating basis this year to save $11.5 million.

Mayor Jerry Sanders reportedly will phase the engines back into service in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. He is scheduled to release his budget proposal Thursday.

"Citygate" refers to a consulting firm which issued a report a couple of months ago on deficiencies in the department's ability to serve the city.

The working group is made up of council members David Alvarez and Marti Emerald, fire Chief Javier Mainar, other city officials and Frank De Clercq, president of the union representing the department's firefighters.

"Your San Diego firefighters support whatever action you take to move this forward," De Clercq said.

The other recommendations that will cost money in the next fiscal year are replacing a broken 21-year-old communications system that alerts firefighters to calls, purchasing a truck company for a new fire station being built on the east side of Mission Valley and begin planning for a new station

on Home Avenue in the Mid-City area -- which Citygate termed the number one priority for new stations.

The plans for the next fiscal year add about $3.5 million on top of the cost of restoring the eight fire engines.

Councilman Todd Gloria said city officials will be "hard-pressed" to come up with even $3.5 million based on what he knows of the mayor's budget proposal.

The working group's report suggests which ideas should be implemented in each fiscal year through 2016.

The money required to fund the working group's proposals, which include building other fire stations in Paradise Hills, the College Area, Skyline Hills and University City -- and adding staff for them -- has not been identified by the mayor's office in the later years, either, Mainar said.

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