County contract and command vehicle take a bite out of the budget

Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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The Winters City Council signed off on two big-ticket items totaling more than $100,000 for needed city resources at the Sept. 20 meeting.

The first bill totals $74,431 for the Yolo County and Winters City annual animal service agreement; however, some of that high cost is offset. Up to $56,962 is allotted in the 2022-23 operating budget for the Winters Police Department, which handles the agreement, leaving $17,469 in estimated revenue collected by Yolo County for Winters’ dog licensing fees.

The local partnership agreement began in the 1970s and recently rose to what Police Chief John P. Miller calls a “sticker shock” price for the small agency and annual use.

“But the bottom line is that there is no other alternative currently whatsoever,” Miller said.

City Manager Kathleen Salguero Trepa said the regional shared services are much more cost-effective than Winters maintaining independent services, including picking up stray and dead animals.

“Otherwise, we would have to pay for that dog catching, boarding, and release service from the central shelter,” Trepa said.

The rates rose significantly in 2017, with Winters seeing a 62 percent increase by Yolo County reallocating service payments. At the time, every agency assumed a fixed cost based on population size and changing variables, including service and after-hour calls, according to Miller. As a result, the small Winters agency pays big with less than 300 service and after-hour calls annually.

“We are paying quite a bit for each call for service and each animal,” Miller said.

To offset costs, Miller had a small dog kennel built in the back of the police parking lot.

“Because we are so remote, especially after hours, if we have to contain a dog in any way for animal control to respond, we just put the dog in the kennel and then would use social media to try and reunite the dog with its owner,” Miller said.

Sometimes, the animals are less furry.

“We even have a tortoise that gets out,” Miller said, adding in extreme heat, the department cannot hold an animal too long outside, even under the shaded kennel.

Regarding reduced costs, city officials recommend purchasing a 2022 Ford F250 diesel 4×4 command vehicle for the fire department at $53,953.25. The proposal comes in at least $1,000 less than other Ford vehicles the city researched.

Currently, Brush 26 is utilized by the fire captains as a command vehicle, removing it from its intended use as a brush engine for off-road vegetation fires. But, Acting Fire Chief Matthew Schechla said it is not sufficient.

“It has multiple radios but lacks the other equipment needed, so we have to move needed command equipment in and out,” Schechla said.

Equipment buildup for the new vehicle will be approximately $40,000 to $45,000, totaling $95,511, which is part of the 2022-23 Fire Development Impact Fee Fund and the city’s capital investment plan.

“Chief Lopez worked with city officials to put a vehicle replacement plan into place last year,” Schechla said.

Command vehicles equipped with computers and high-tech radios are not directly engaged in firefighting and rescue operations but are present for scene management, resource tracking and accountability, according to Schecla.

“The vehicle will have multiple radios and electronics such as a laptop with computer-aided dispatching, mapping, chargers, flashlights, medical equipment, and more,” Schecla said. “The camper shell also protects these items from weather and theft.”

When brainstorming the purchase, the acting fire chief said fire department officials chose the crew cab for flexibility in transporting crews and towing and hauling fire department equipment. The new truck adds to the fire department’s fleet of 11 vehicles, including engines and boats.

“I believe that city officials allow us to use our area of expertise to purchase and design vehicles that provide the best benefits for Winters and the surrounding fire district,” Schechla said.

Other council business included a resolution passing the Natural Resource Commission’s Work Plan Proposal. Some commission proposals include reviewing all Winters tree-related documents, interviewing staff on city tree policies and programs, and addressing urban conflagration risk related to vegetation.

The next regularly scheduled Winters City Council is to be announced. However, a special Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m.

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