Holtville, county near agreement on fire contract

February 16, 2001|By DORA DEPAOLI, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — District 5 County Supervisor Wally Leimgruber said this city and the county are close to an agreement on a long-awaited fire contract.

The city and county have been at loggerheads over a contract to provide fire services to the rural area around Holtville. The Holtville fire district is the second-largest area in the county.

Negotiations have dragged on for a year and a half and the City Council recently gave city staff direction to wrap up the city's fire contract with the county within 90 days. Shared liability on medical aid calls is the main bone of contention.

"There was some language the city was looking for in the agreement that we feel is a win-win situation for Holtville and the county," Leimgruber said.


Holtville Mayor Victor Gillespie Jr. said when the city's fire department responds to medical aid calls there is always an "ambulance rolling behind us."

County Fire Chief Joe Buzo said, "Holtville has always worked really well with us and so have the rest of the agencies."

City Manager John Jordan said the "county's contention" is it provides ambulance service.

"The ambulance that services Holtville comes out of El Centro and they spend the majority of their time answering calls on the east side of El Centro," he said.

Jordan said those needing medical aid want help in five minutes rather than waiting the "15 or 20 minutes" it takes for an ambulance to arrive from El Centro.

The 1999 contract the city is operating under is for $78,146, Jordan said.

The city has asked for a 2 percent increase for 2000, a 3 percent increase for 2001 and a 3 percent increase for 2002. In 1999 Holtville responded to 569 calls, 238 of which, or 41 percent, were in the county.

The City Council has encouraged county residents to contact all county supervisors to voice their opinions. Leimgruber and District 4 Supervisor Gary Wyatt serve on the county public safety committee. Leimgruber can be reached at 482-4305 and Wyatt at 482-4613.

Local residents have concerns about medical service in the county.

John Rubin, 79, lives seven miles southeast of Holtville.

"We would have to suffer," Rubin said, "It would take twice as long for an ambulance to get to us from El Centro."

Louise Nilson, 74, another county resident, said there are a lot of older people living in the county around Holtville.

"The first few minutes of a heart attack or a stroke are real critical," Nilson said. "I would prefer having someone coming to give aid from Holtville than from El Centro or Brawley, and someone who is familiar with the territory. It is comforting to me to have help only five miles away."

Holtville resident Roxann Stapleton, 44, along with her husband, John, will soon move to a home in the county.

"Some of the best-qualified emergency medical personnel are located in Holtville," Stapleton said. "It is a big consideration right now because we are building a home in the county. We need to have one agency that responds. It could be a matter of life and death for someone if help is needed."

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