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Red square QuickPoll: Should RMA donate the tower site or negotiate the best price?

Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District officials made their second visit to the community in as many weeks with a community meeting Wednesday night. District Chief Don Mette used the 90-minute session to explain the workings and history of his department, the fire services received by area residents and the need for better radio reception here for public-safety workers.

Don Mette

Taxes and the special assessment paid by area residents do not cover the cost of operating fire stations here, District Fire Chief Don Mette said.

While there have always been gaps in radio coverage due to the rolling terrain, the dead spots have increased in recent years, Mette said.

In early April, Mette wrote an angry letter to the RMA, saying the association was asking for "inappropriate and outrageous" fees to place a new public-safety radio tower on the RMA's tower property on Stonehouse Road. The RMA sought a 30-year lease, with fees of $10,000 a year in the first decade, $20,000 a year in the second decade and $30,000 a year for the final decade.

Although there were only a half-dozen neighbors in attendance Wednesday -- there were twice as many fire and sheriff's representatives on hand -- several neighbors took the floor to speak of services rendered or a life saved by firefighters.

Village resident Donna Roth criticized the RMA's position and said, "Do they not understand that it's our health and welfare that they're dealing with? That's absolutely obscene. And greedy."

Another Village resident, Alta Temple, told how firefighters have helped her over the last 25 years here and talked about their assistance during and after January's storm. "They do a terrific job and they help all of us," she said.

Mette attended the April 15 RMA meeting and fielded challenges and compliments from board members. Among the challenges were questions about the $100 special fire assessment area residents pay on top of property taxes.

At Wednesday's session Mette provided a detailed version of the answer he gave RMA officials.

He said the taxes and assessments paid by area residents total about $2.1 million -- far short of the $3.4 million it costs to operate Station 58 in Sloughhouse and Station 59 in Murieta.

"...Paying for these two fire stations, we're in the red," Mette said.

Firefighter Don Kurtz, who lives in Murieta South, said a study in 2000 found an operating revenue shortfall of $892,000 a year for Stations 58 and 59.

Instead of focusing on the shortfall, he said, "We're consumed with whether we get our $100-a-year (assessment) value out of Sacramento Metro Fire. And we're consumed about getting a fee for a tower site."

Mette said most of the district's radio towers are on government land, where no rent is paid, or on property where only a token rent is charged. Only a tower location in Walnut Grove carries rental fees, he said, and that situation could be eliminated by a planned new tower.

"Budgets are tight," he said. "And it comes back to that money coming out of our budget for those radio sites, if we have to pay a lease or rent or buy the property outright from (the RMA)."

Among the other points Mette made:

  • He outlined plans for more fire houses in the east county, which are now on hold due to the slowdown in the housing market. Construction fees, when building resumes, will fund the new facilities at a rate of 61 cents a square foot for each home and more for commercial construction, he said.
  • He offered a history of fire services in the area. The first medical unit started serving the area in 1979, he said, and the present Station 59 building was opened in 1984, donated by the RMA.
  • He provided a risk assessment of Rancho Murieta from the perspective of firefighters and emergency medical personnel. The list included the wild land areas, the airport, the Highway 16 corridor, expanding residential and commercial development, and the use of lakes and the Cosumnes River for recreation.

Red square Recent coverage: RMA says it's willing to negotiate radio tower -- but in private (April 16, 2008) ... County officials will bring radio tower request to RMA (April 15, 2008)

Red square QuickPoll: Should RMA donate the tower site or negotiate the best price?


Bill Duncan's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 38
Post rating: 48

Chief Mette Shows bad judgment

I want to preface my comments by saying that I am satisfied with the fire protection that we have in Rancho Murieta.  I don't mind paying the extra $100 assesment to insure that we get that protection and I would gladly offer the department land to build their new tower.

However, Chief Mette has done his best to insult the people of Rancho Murieta at every turn.  He has treated us like a bunch of ignorant rubes.  The "show of force" that he organized at the RMA meeting and his community meeting at the church was intended to intimidate us.  I would guess that we paid more to those firefighters and officers in attendance in salaries than the cost of the lease.  Chief Mette insulted the RMA board of Directors with the early release of his misguided letter and his comments at the meeting.

The issue is not about the tower.  The issue now is about the leadership of the Metro Fire Department. Chief Mette has taken a simple negotiation and blown it out of proportion.  He has made the entire department look bad.

Lisa Taylor's picture
Joined: 01/09/2008
Posts: 365
Post rating: 30

A Different Point of View

 

I suspect that the "show of force" was voluntary and not paid. That "show of force" was there to show us that there is a problem and that this is an issue that is very important to the guys and gals that protect our lives and our property. I personally think that it should be important to all of us, as it is our lives and our property that they are here to protect.

Frankly, I don't think that the issue is the leadership in the fire dept, nor is it the leadership with RMA. That's a political issue. Fire chiefs will come and go, as will RMA board members. But the public safety folks are (thankfully) a constant, and their job is getting increasingly difficult and more dangerous with the radio problems that they encounter out here.

To me, the issue is that the rent that RMA is asking for is not coming out of a general county fund, but the SRRCS budget (the regional radio system), which is paid for by the users. Whatever we ask for, comes out of the budget of each public entity that uses that system.

RMA chooses to subsidize a number of things. I would absolutetly support this "subsidy".

 

Doug Lewis's picture
Joined: 08/08/2007
Posts: 165
Post rating: 322

Radio tower

The radios used by firefighters and law enforcement are a life line for both themselves and for the people they are responding to help.  Imagine trying to handle an emergency and facing the frustration of not being able to call for back up or assistance.  Imagine stepping out of a patrol car on a suspicious traffic stop and wondering if your radio will work.  We as a community are in a position to give our public servants a safer environment to work in without cost to us.  What a concept.  A community proudly supporting and assisting those who are willing to put their lives on the line for us.  Its no wonder that the Fire Chief is speaking out and expressing frustration in this matter.  We are basically telling him that the safety of his troops is something we should charge them for!  Lets not try to make a few bucks to give a safer working environment to the men and women who will be there to help us when we need them.   

Doug Lewis

 

Doug Lewis

Mike Burnett's picture
Joined: 07/31/2007
Posts: 183
Post rating: 0

"Just the facts, Mam, just the facts. ..."

We have not heard all the facts on this issue, so we should not surmise or suspect what we don't know.

The Fire Department wants better radio reception and I think we can all support that request.  Now the difficult part is the Fire Department is trying to brow beat our community into how they get it!  My response to the Fire Chief is to back off, your tactics aren't working.

RMA should perform the requisite due diligence on this issue and make sure that they have all the pertinent information to make an informed decision.  There are several towers in the area and one question that I have not heard answered is why do they need a new tower?  There are towers on Scott Road, RMA and Jay Schneider's Farm.  How many towers do we need?

Tower space leasing can be a lucrative business and the Fire Department appears hell bent on getting the land donated to build a tower for what?  What are they planning to put on the tower, what are their lease projections for revenue to prove in a million dollar plus cost?  Ask Jay Schneider what he paid to build his tower.  What would it cost RMA to build a tower and lease the space they need?  Why won't the Fire Department and County agree to build the Tower whereby we give them free use for a predetermined period and then they begin to pay RMA for lease space? 

The Fire Department is citing budget as a concern, yet the cost proposed to build the tower is approximately tenfold higher that what Jay Schneider paid for a tower on his land.  In my opinion, this issue is not just about improving radio reception, because if it were there are existing solutions already in place. So until RMA gets their act together and finds the answers to all of the questions, this will continue to fester and be divisive with the County and Fire Department.

 

 

Dick Cox's picture
Joined: 10/02/2007
Posts: 156
Post rating: 563

RADIO TOWER

Dick Cox

Here’s Fire Chief Don Mette back beating the RMA Board over the head again in an effort to intimidate us into giving the SRRCS free land for their tower.  What more do we have to do to convince him we are going back to the table.  We made that decision at the last board meeting when he was present. And we have a special executive secession scheduled on May 6th.

 

Chief Mette keeps ranting about the budget and how they don’t pay for use of tower space.  Well he did admit they pay $4000 per month for use of a tower in Walnut Grove. What makes us different?  I talked to Mr. Schneider and he told me it only cost $53,000 to build the 130’ tower on his property.  SRRCS is planning on spending $1,500,000 for a 140’ tower and a 24’ x 40” building.  We don’t know what is going in that building, however, it seems excessive for a simple repeater tower.

 

Since 1979 RMA has subsidized various fire services with an ambulance, fire truck, and 12 years of rent on a building RMA had built and owned.  RMA also sold that same building to the fire service at a discounted price (construction cost).  I estimate RMA members pay around $17,500,000 year in property taxes and receive in return very little in the way of service. Because we are a gated community we pay for all our parks, roads, and other common interest.  The county doesn’t help with any of that while the property taxes we pay go to pay for roads, parks and other services most of which probably aren’t used by members of RMA. If you think we get a return for our buck just drive Stonehouse and Scott Roads.  These are county roads which are heavily used by our members, so why doesn’t the county get off their duffs and fix them instead of wanting us to pay approximately $3,000,000 just to fix Stonehouse Road.

 

When they comment on how much it cost to operate the two stations out here and how they end up with a budget shortfall is that our fault?  As I calculate Metro Fire has spent some where around $3,600,000 over the past 4-5 years settling sexual harassment complaints because they haven’t been able to manager their management team and personnel in a professional manner.   They are now beating us over the head for 1/10 of 1% of their annual budget for this area.

 

 I don’t think asking the county to pay for the use of our common ground is unreasonable.  For the past few years Metro Fire has been living in a GLASS HOUSE.  Maybe they should think twice before throwing stones at us.

Dick Cox

Bobbi Belton's picture
Joined: 07/30/2007
Posts: 275
Post rating: 442

fire tower

Thank you, Michael. While I am a supporter of all safety-related items/issues, I find it interesting that the only other privately owned leased tower site receives far more income per month than that which RMA is requesting.

The voices of those who are RMA members should be listened to far more than those who reside outside our HOA.

Bobbi Belton

Bobbi Belton

Mike Burnett's picture
Joined: 07/31/2007
Posts: 183
Post rating: 0

It's good to hear from an RMA BOD

Dick,

Thanks for the post.  I wish we heard more from our Director's in the way of open and honest communications.  Sounds like you have been doing some of the needed research to know how to approach this issue.

David Alter's picture
Joined: 05/01/2008
Posts: 2
Post rating: 0

Missing the Obvious?

I may be wrong, but I believe that multiple users can utilize the same tower.  In fact, I think one of the items previously discussed in negotiations with the fire department was a restriction against using the tower for other commercial uses.  Instead of that, why doesn't the RMA let the fire department build their tower and give them the land for a $1 per year lease payment.  In exchange the RMA should retain the ability to lease the excess capacity of the tower to third party users.  Under this scenario the RMA retains the ability to obtain top dollar rents due to the cost of building the tower being paid for by the fire department.  Wouldn't that be a win-win?

George Roper's picture
Joined: 08/08/2007
Posts: 46
Post rating: 0

Good thinking David

David you are correct, sounds like a plan.  Have you ever thought of running for the Board.  As long as we retain the ability to get top dollar for that asset I'm for your idea.

George Roper

Blake Carmichael's picture
Joined: 07/30/2007
Posts: 278
Post rating: 434

Win-win sounds good...

It would be nice if a $1 lease and sale for space agreement could be hammered out. If not, I'm all for charging fair market value. There's no free lunch. Let's say RMA donated the area/space as the county wants. Then there's a potential loss for revenue in the future should RMA want to build another tower for lease.

Great idea, but if it doesn't fly, charge the going rate.

 

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