Heffernan Board Saves Fire Station #2

Heffernan Board Saves Fire Station #2

By Mario Conde

The Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District voted to give funding in the amount of $568,224 to the Calexico Fire Department to avoid layoffs and the closure of Fire Station #2.

The Calexico City Council and the Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District held a joint meeting on Monday, March 6, to discuss how the Heffernan Board could support the fire department since they faced layoffs and the closure of the west fire station because of lack of funds from the city.

The City and the Calexico Fire Fighters Association reached an impasse in their negotiations since the Association has not been able to get the sworn documents from last year that proves the current financial status of the city.

The City of Calexico and the Calexico Fire Fighters Association have yet to reach an agreement in their labor negotiations. Last month, 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 in order to close the budget deficit.

Several members of the community have expressed their disagreement with the city and the direction they are taking and have pressured the council not to go forward with the layoffs. The Heffernan Memorial Board offered to help the Fire Department and asked the city to have a joint meeting where they would consider giving a grant to offset the budget cuts need from the fire department.

City Manager Armando Villa told the City Council and the Heffernan Board spoke about the progress being done in closing the 2016-17 budget gap. Villa said that they have restored impact fees, received a traffic grant, and negotiated employee contract concessions with Calexico Municipal Employees, Mid-Management, Unrepresented, and City Council. Villa spoke about identified vacancy savings, deferred equipment replacement, and other line-by-line operating reductions.

Villa said that they have made progress but they still need to close the budget gap. City Manager said that there has been no negotiation progress made with the Fire Association so they decided to exercise their management rights for termination based on the lack of funds in order to close the deficit.

Heffernan Chairman Sylvia Bernal asked if the Fire Department is the only association that hasn’t come to an agreement with the city in regards to the cuts. Villa said that there are two other groups that also have an impasse with the city
County Supervisor John Rension said he spoke to the Executive Director of LAFCO on behalf of Heffernan and told him that Heffernan can provide the fire department the money but can’t get involved in the services.

Councilman Jesus Eduardo Escobar said that they need to be more prepared with their budget since the next two fiscal years in Calexico will be lousy, he said.