Robert Bergman: A short letter about the Nevada City Fire Department and Measure C

NEVADA CITY, Calif. October 22, 2016 – Every now and then something comes up that we need to pay attention to and then do something. This is one of those times, and the ‘something’ is to step up and support Nevada City’s Fire Department.

In a sense, most of us look at public safety as an entitlement, a set of services that the government will always have available to protect and assist us. Every member of a community wants to know that there will always be an immediate response to calls for help. Generally, though, we don’t pay enough attention to just what it takes to give us the level of service we need and expect, and really how strained the current system is. But, that’s the nature of expectations.

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Earlier this year, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution placing a measure on the November ballot that will provide permanent funding for three full-time firefighters and the ongoing viability of Nevada City’s Station 54 on Providence Mine Road (Measure C). Each of us on the council at that time understood how important approval of this measure is. And you should, too.

The Department is asking you, the voters, to approve Measure C. If it passes, the city will add three eights of a cent to the sales tax here – just a few pennies a month on average for each of us – that will generate the revenue necessary for the Department’s essential services.

The measure requires a two-thirds majority to pass, and that makes each vote more important than is usually the case. Missing this mark will have consequences for all of us. All of us. If the Department’s ability to supply its current level of service is impaired, and it will be if Measure C doesn’t pass, that will have a significant impact on our community. There will be fewer firefighters available to answer calls for fire and medical emergencies, and at times responders may have to travel farther when just seconds can make a critical, life-affecting difference. But, if this important measure is approved, the Department’s readiness to react fully and quickly will not be compromised.

Even those who don’t live in Nevada City will be affected by the outcome of Measure C. Nevada City, Grass Valley, and the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District work together under a Joint Powers Agreement. This cooperative arrangement, i.e., an effective mutual aid system, gives the entire area a much stronger level of service and faster response times.

Under the JPA, the Department is the first responder for most of Nevada City and a large area outside of the city limits. This responsibility includes Gold Flat Road, Pinewoods Road, Lower Banner Lava Cap Road, Old Tunnel Road, Loma Rica Drive, Greenhorn Road (and all the side roads off of it), Nevada City Highway to Glenwood Road, and Ridge Road to Ridge Estates Road. If the Department isn’t fully staffed, Grass Valley and Consolidated will be hard pressed to maintain their response times too.

Opposing this measure is very, very short-sighted, and I cannot see any good reason for any dissent on this issue. Of course, no one wants the Department’s capability to maintain its current (high) level of service to be jeopardized in the slightest, and the Department would not be coming to you if the need now isn’t genuine and compelling. The revenue realized from the measure’s success isn’t a growth or expansion opportunity. Not at all. Funding from this measure will essentially do little more than provide the Department with the operational funding that it sorely needs.

Measure C is about public safety and really nothing more. There is a cost attached to the measure, yes, but I don’t see how anyone can fairly claim that the nominal sales tax increase that our Department is asking for is not an undeniably prudent investment in our community and your peace of mind.

Finally, think about this: Voting in favor of the Measure C and encouraging others to do the same carries with it a clear statement that you see the dedication that the Department’s personnel – and all of the men and women who work hard to ensure the public’s safety – have. I know that that message will be heard widely and it will resonate solidly with them.

Put simply, our Department’s commitment to Nevada City, and to the safety of the area as a whole, is an honest one. Our reply to the Nevada City Fire Department now should be just as strong and equally honest.

Robert Bergman
Former Nevada City city council member (2008-2016) and mayor