Orange County Fire Authority offers $50 million proposal to keep Irvine from leaving

by in News

Orange County Fire Authority officials have reached an agreement with Irvine to spend about $50 million over the next 11 years to improve public safety services and increase firefighter pension funding, which could keep Irvine from quitting the agency.

The proposal comes after several years of frustration for Irvine, which contributes by far the most funding to the joint powers authority and had threatened to leave unless it got a bigger share of benefits and services. The two sides have been in talks for months over what a fair deal would look like.

The authority’s board is scheduled to vote on the agreement Thursday, March 28. If the OCFA and Irvine City Council approve it, the authority would spend $20.5 million to build a joint training center for its firefighters and Irvine police, improve emergency communications with amplifiers that boost radio signals, and establish a public safety drone program, according to a report to the board.

Other provisions include OCFA kicking in $2 million a year to pay down employee pension liability, which has been one of Irvine’s top priorities, as well as funding for a Community Emergency Response Team coordinator and training in paramedic skills for Irvine police.

One-time costs to the fire authority would be $21 million, and ongoing costs over the term of the agreement would total $29.3 million.

Had Irvine opted to leave, the authority and the county’s emergency response network could have been in serious jeopardy, the Orange County Grand Jury concluded in a 2018 report.

Placentia officials also gave OCFA notice last year that the city might leave in an effort to reduce its costs. They sought alternate proposals and are now reviewing the five they received, City Administrator Damien Arrula wrote in an email.