Fire Station Closure, Layoffs Discussed At Townhall Meeting

Fire Station Closure

Layoffs Discussed At Town Hall Meeting

By Mario Conde

Fire Captain Shannon Mohammed talks about negotiations with city at recent community meeting with west side residents.

Residents living on the west side of Calexico had a meeting regarding the possible closure of the Calexico Fire Station #2 this past Monday night.

The meeting was made due to concern about the closure of Fire Station #2 on the west side of Calexico due to the financial situation of the city. The City of Calexico and the Calexico Fire Fighters Association have yet reached an agreement in their labor negotiations. This past Friday, February 17, six Fire Fighters received a thirty day layoff notice from City Manager Armando Villa stating that as a result of the City of Calexico’s shortage of funds and significant crisis for the City, a number of positions have been designated for layoff.

“Please note that this separation of employment is non-disciplinary in nature. You are being separated from City employment in good standing. This separation is a result of a significant budgetary crisis for the City, resulting in a shortage of funds and the need to lay off employees.” The letter from the City Manager stated. The Calexico Fire Department currently has twenty-three fighters that work for department. A normal staffing pattern for the City of Calexico is to have eight per shift that include three on Station #2 on an engine, three on Station #1, and two that are stationed on an ambulance.

One of the recipients of the letter posted it on Facebook and was shared by people who expressed their disappointment. A townhall meeting was called Monday night to discuss the impact of the layoffs and closure of the stations where residents of the west side area attended.

Eddie Ainza, Calexico Fire Fighters Association Presidents, also received a letter of termination and said that the biggest road block between their negotiations was that the city is behind producing a financial document that will prove the financial status of the city. Ainza said that they hired their own accountant that made a forensic audit on the city that would be used in their negotiations. According to Ainza, the accountant cannot complete this year’s financial status because he doesn’t have the 2015-2016 documents but did use budget numbers from previous four years.

“That is ultimately what brought us to this point is that we don’t have the sworn documents that prove the city’s financial status or their ability to pay.” Ainza said. “We will try to have him come here next week so he can show his findings in a town hall with the community.” The town hall meeting is set to take place Tuesday, February 28, but the location and time has not been determined.

Former Calexico School Board Trustee Norma Aguilar said on the meeting that closing the Station #2 would be a risk for residents living on the west side of Calexico since the response time would be delayed.

“Our Fire Department is our ambulance on wheels and we need to support our fire fighters and paramedics.” Aguilar said.

Calexico Mayor Armando “Mandy” Real was present at the meeting as well to hear the citizens and discussed the financial situation of the city.

“We need to figure out a way to prioritize the monies for the city and if this is going to be the council’s top priority we need to see where we can pull $600,000 but obviously the people’s safety is number one,” Mayor Real said.

Mayor Real said he will place for the consideration the option of postponing the closure of the Fire Station and reduction of fire department personnel until negotiations with the Association are completed. The discussion item would be before the city council on the March 1st meeting.