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

Gov. Newsom wants $4.2 billion to finish the Central Valley link for the bullet train, but legislators aren’t sold. (Illustration by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; iStock; CA High Speed Rail Authority; Shae Hammond for CalMatters)
Bullet train budget battle: Should California spend more on urban transit, not high-speed rail?

By Marissa Garcia CalMatters High-speed rail was supposed to connect California’s urban… Continue reading

Cooks work in the kitchen at The Vault Garden. (Courtesy Hardy Wilson)
Help wanted: SF restaurants are struggling to staff up

Some small businesses have to ‘sweeten the pot’ when hiring workers

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Alameda during a March 2021 press conference. (Credit Ed Reed/EdSource)
How California plans to deter costly special education disputes

Fund is meant to help parents and schools settle differences before heading to court

Hundreds of Britney Spears fans and supporters rallied in support of ending her 13-years-long conservatorship and the removal of her father, Jamie Spears, as her conservator, at the Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse on July 14, 2021. (Photo by Ted Soqui, SIPA USA via AP Images)
The Britney effect: How California is grappling with conservatorship

By Jocelyn Wiener CalMatters However improbable, this has become the summer we… Continue reading

District Attorney Chesa Boudin is launching an investigation into whether Chinatown merchants have been targeted as victims of possibly illegitimate lawsuits. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner, 2021)
DA launches investigation of potential fraud targeting Chinatown merchants

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday it is launching an… Continue reading

Most Read