County transfers $7,000 to Susan River Fire Protection District, but it’s not a
SRFPD paid the fees for plan checking and building inspections when Lassen County Ordinance 561 was in effect. The law imposed plan check and inspection fees on all public agencies, County Counsel Craig Settlemire told the Board of Supervisors.
Settlemire said Ordinance 561 was later rescinded.
“Susan River Fire Protection District was the only public agency that actually was charged these fees,” Settlemire said at the board’s Tuesday, Dec. 19 meeting, adding “Simply refunding the fees would be considered a gift of public funds.”
Settlemire said many people think transferring money from one public agency to another is not a gift of public funds. In several court cases, he said, the California Supreme Court did not see the issue the way most people see it.
“It would be a gift of public funds unless you can show that the transfer served a purpose of the agency that is giving the fund,” Settlemire said.
Since the fees were legally collected and became part of the general fund, the board had to find a public purpose for giving SRFPD the money.
“If you just simply refunded the fees without saying more, then in effect what you would be doing is benefiting just simply the taxpayers within the Susan River Fire Protection District,” he said.
However, Settlemire suggested the board could make four specific findings:
•Fire protection is essential to the public health, safety and welfare of the county’s citizens,
•Mutual aid agreements among all the fire protection districts alleviate the need for the county to form its own fire protection district.
•The county government has an interest in the financial viability of fire protection districts, and
•The money is not a refund, but rather assistance with an unusual and unique expense of the SRFPD.
Saying the county shares a responsibility for its fire protection districts, District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman said because of the interlocking mutual aid agreements, “what benefits one district benefits all the districts and the county as a whole.”
Pointing out the vote to pass 561 was not unanimous, Chapman made a motion to fund the district, “not as a refund of a legally charged fee, but as an adjustment to accommodate the fact that they wound up being, in some respects, victimized by this program, versus the other districts that were not.”
District 3 Supervisor Lloyd Keefer seconded Chapman’s motion, adding not only will Susan River respond to mutual aid agreements to help other fire districts, “they will respond to unprotected areas, areas that are not covered by other districts where we have residences.”
The new fire station is an awesome facility, District 1 Supervisor, and board chairman, Bob Pyle said just before the board voted unanimously to transfer the money to SRFPD.
“The tankers are all in there, no frozen water, ready to move,” Pyle said. “I’m sure it will, in time, pay for itself.”
The 7,000 square foot building on three acres houses two engines and two water tenders. Since 1959, SRFPD has been protecting the area around Susanville, backing up and working alongside the Susanville Fire Department, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management firefighters since 1959.
The department operated out of its Richmond Road headquarters for approximately 22 years. It also maintains a small station at Leavitt Lake.
The department has a roster of more than 20 firefighters, all volunteers, and nine pieces of fire fighting equipment, from engines to large water tenders covering an area from near the top of Gold Run Road all the way to Leavitt Lake.
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