Sunday, January 19, 2020     Volume: 20, Issue: 46

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 1st, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 31 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 31

County moves forward with relocating fire, EMS dispatch


Santa Barbara County is planning to relocate its fire and emergency medical services (EMS) dispatch and to create a regional fire communications facility. 

At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Oct. 1, county staff presented supervisors with two different options that would create a separate location for fire and EMS dispatch, which are both currently run out of the Sheriff’s Office. 

During the meeting, Assistant County Executive Officer Bernard Melekian said staff recommends building a new facility at the Santa Ynez Airport. This move would cost about $12 million and came with some complications that could be difficult to overcome, including needing Federal Aviation Administration approval.

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said that, in general, it’s sometimes tough to move projects forward in the Santa Ynez Valley.

“I would much rather see us look at Santa Ynez, but I also understand the Santa Ynez Valley and how difficult it is sometimes to maneuver in that space,” Lavagnino said. 

The other option Melekian presented, which supervisors later approved, is to expand the county’s Emergency Operations Center in Santa Barbara and relocate fire and EMS dispatch to the larger facility. This option will cost the county about $10 million and also has drawbacks. The primary concern with this option is that it still leaves all county dispatch services in South County, which was an issue for 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam.

“I’m just having a hard time spending almost the same amount of money and not getting any redundancy and not putting it any closer to what I perceive to be the labor pool,” Adam said.

Supervisors unanimously voted in favor of separating fire and EMS dispatch from the Sheriff’s Office. This move satisfies concerns that fire and EMS departments have raised about the Sheriff’s Office running all dispatch services.

In a second motion, the Board of Supervisors approved moving forward with expanding the county’s Emergency Operations Center in a 3-2 vote. Fourth District Supervisor Adam and 5th District Supervisor Lavagnino both voted against the measure because it doesn’t add dispatch services to North County. 

“I’m not a fan of the [emergency operations center] location just because, as Supervisor Adam had stated, one of the main reasons we’re doing this is for redundancy, and I think geographic redundancy is a big piece of that,” Lavagnino said.

In addition to separating fire and EMS dispatch from the Sheriff’s Office, this move also works toward the county’s goal of creating a regional fire communications facility that other fire agencies in the county can work with.

The Board of Supervisors directed staff to begin negotiations with local fire agencies to help fund the project. Lavagnino said that if the county can’t find funding partners, he’s against the project moving forward any further.

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