On January 10th, 2014, the Task Force released a 2013 update to its original report and submitted it to the Orinda City Council with the letter below.  The Task Force requested that the Council take action on behalf of the Orinda residents it represents as MOFD is providing substandard service to Orinda.  This is partially due to the fact that two million of Orinda’s taxpayers’ dollars going to support MOFD are being used to provide service to Moraga when they are needed for service improvements to Orinda. 

MOFD has the ability to charge Moraga users their fair share of its operating expenses.  The 1997 Orinda Council which asked the voters to form MOFD told them that their emergency service tax dollars would not be used outside of Orinda.  The Task Force believes that the current Council should stand behind their predecessor’s pledge.

To date, no member of the Council has responded to the Task Force request or acknowledged receipt of their letter.

If you wish to send a request to the City Council to consider this issue, you may send them an email by CLICKING HERE.  This will only open an email, you have to do your own writing (we are not that high-tech).  You can copy the letter below and add your own thoughts.

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Dear Orinda City Council:

In September of 2012, the grass roots Orinda Emergency Services Task Force presented you with its report on the state of its emergency services provider, MOFD, and the services provided.  There were specific issues addressed and detailed from finances to operations which concerned the community and the City Council which represents the community.

In the 15 months since that report was submitted, much has happened at MOFD:

  • The majority of the Board was replaced with new members
  • There is a new Chief and a new Administrative Services Director
  • It was announced that their general fund reserve has been fully depleted
  • Their current budget started more than $1 million in the red and is still $400,000 unbalanced
  • Their pension’s unfunded liability almost doubled from $24 million to $45 million
  • They cut their operating staff by two, both from Orinda; an 18 percent reduction in Orinda responders

The Orinda Task Force has stated, and reiterates, that the City of Orinda, as represented by its City Council, needs to actively engage with MOFD to preserve and enhance the safety of Orinda’s residents.  In the past, the Council has put the burden of this engagement on the residents themselves.  However, MOFD has repeatedly rejected involvement in its affairs by the public which is evidenced by the facts that they have no standing citizen participation on any committee and that the Task Force report was repudiated and termed “a polemic” by them, even though none of the data or analyses presented could be cited as erroneous and some of its warnings have already come to pass.

At this point in time, Orinda taxpayers are subsidizing service in Moraga with two million tax dollars per year. This was not the deal the Orinda Council sold to the voters in 1997 when they asked to voters to form MOFD.  They said that Orinda’s tax dollars would not be used outside Orinda as long as there was a need in Orinda.  And there is a need.  Not for more firefighters in the same three stations Orinda gave to MOFD, but for:

  • Extra service in Orinda’s least-served area, Orinda Downs and Sleepy Hollow, so that 40 percent of all of Orinda’s emergency responses are not responded to in excess of the 6 minute benchmark response time (100 percent failure in that particular area)
  • A vegetation fuel reduction plan in the large part of North Orinda which is considered a “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone.” 
  • Upgrading some of the more than two dozen substandard hydrants, many in the Fire Hazard Zone, which our parcel tax was supposed to start addressing 15 years ago. 
  • Other safety needs, specific to Orinda, could be identified and funded if our money was not being used elsewhere.

MOFD does not have the funds to provide this extra service without additional revenue; but they do have the means to secure that revenue from the residents of Moraga.  Before MOFD was formed, Moraga voters approved a parcel tax five time what they are currently paying to provide them with services beyond what their ad valorem property tax would fund.  But with the formation of MOFD, Orinda taxpayers provided those extra funds.  Moraga taxpayers have been accepting Orinda’s subsidy while being told Orinda owes it to them for the service Moraga-based firefighters provide to Orinda.  The Task Force report repudiated that assertion.  And now, with two fewer firefighters serving Orinda, the scale has swung even further out of kilter.  The thought that Moraga-based firefighters are providing significant net service to Orinda when 75% of all incidents, 90% of emergencies, are medical in nature and Moraga has one ambulance while Orinda has three is not plausible.

Someone needs to stand up for Orinda’s taxpayers’ best interests and its residents’ safety.  We believe Director Evans would do so.  Director Wyro has refused to do so to date and will continue in this manner unless he is pressured to do so by outside forces.  Director Anderson’s division is composed of 55 percent Orinda residents and 45 percent Moraga residents so his convictions are divided.  Again, without external pressure he will find it hard to be a leader.  If the Orinda Council will not stand up for its residents’ best interests, why should MOFD’s Directors, who may be conflicted or ambivalent, do so?

Attached, and available on the Task Force web site www.OrindaTaskForce.org, is a more detailed update for the events of 2013.  We hope the Council changes its position and becomes pro-active in support of Orinda residents’ safety, service from and funding of MOFD.  The Task Force is more than happy and willing to work with the Council in any form the Council deems appropriate to bring this about.

Respectfully Submitted,

Orinda Emergency Services Task Force

Bailey Lee, Bob Mills, Diana Stephens, Dick James, Joan Daoro, Sandy Gross, Steve Cohn, Vince Maiorana

January 10, 2014