Chief: Department optimistic about assessment

BELMONT — The mail-in ballots are piling up in Belmont and San Carlos, where both cities are preparing to count the votes that will spell the future of their joint fire department.

Property owners in both cities are voting on an assessment designed to raise a total of $2.5 million in support of the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department, the new name for the cities’ 25-year-old joint fire department, formerly the South County Fire Authority. Officials voted to spare the department from dissolution early this year, on the condition that they get an assessment passed.

“It’s going to be a nail-biter,” Belmont City Council member Dave Warden said. “I think it’s going to be close.”

More than 19,000 ballots were mailed in late September — more than 8,000 in Belmont and nearly 11,000 in San Carlos. San Carlos property owners have mailed back some 5,000, while Belmont’s have returned between 4,000 and 5,000. City Clerks in both cities expect plenty more to come in between now and the voting deadline early next week.

In 2003, voters failed to pass Measure I, a tax measure designed to raise $3.2 million for the fire department. Since then, the department has laid off six firefighters, struggled financially and “browned out” stations when staffing levels dropped. While Measure I required two-thirds approval to pass, the assessment needs a simple majority.

If voters approve the assessment, the department will be able to hire six new firefighters, in addition to the six it hired in early 2006, Fire Chief Doug Fry said. Morale is good and firefighters are optimistic about the assessment vote’s outcome, he said. No one has discussed what the department will do if it doesn’t pass.

“We wanted to stay upbeat. We really didn’t want to go there,” Fry said.

Belmont and Carlos have encountered only minor snags in the 45-day all-mail election. Approximately 300 townhome owners, 200 in San Carlos and 100 in Belmont, protested after their ballots designated them owners of single-family homes.

“They were making an issue of it, even though they recognized it was just a $20-a-year difference,” Belmont City Clerk Terri Cook said.

San Carlos’s voting deadline is Monday; Belmont’s is Tuesday. San Carlos expects to be finished counting ballots on Wednesday, according to City Clerk Christine Boland. Belmont’s votes should be counted by Thursday, Cook said.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” San Carlos Mayor Matt Grocott said.

bwinegarner@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A health care worker receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccine doses at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. (Courtesy SFgov)
SF to open three large sites for COVID-19 vaccinations

Breed: ‘We need more doses. We are asking for more doses’

Tongo Eisen-Martin, a Bernal Heights resident, named San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Tongo Eisen-Martin becomes San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate

Bernal Heights resident Tongo Eisen-Martin has become San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate.… Continue reading

Homeless people's tents can be seen on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/S.F. Examiner)
Statewide business tax could bring new funds to combat homelessness

San Francisco could get more than $100 million a year for housing, rental assistance, shelter beds

The Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco (a mural by artist Jamie Treacy is pictued) has a lineup of free online programming including activities for youngsters scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18. (Courtesy Demetri Broxton/Museum of the African Diaspora)
Stanford, Museum of the African Diaspora host MLK Day activities

Online offerings include films, music, discussion

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi presides the US House of Representatives vote on the impeachment of US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol, January 13, 2021, in Washington, DC. - The Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives on January 13 opened debate on a historic second impeachment of President Donald Trump over his supporters' attack of the Capitol that left five dead. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
House votes 232-197 to impeach Trump a second time

Focus shifts to Senate, where McConnell has signaled he may not stand by president

Most Read