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Keep in mind sacred cows can make government flabby

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POSTED February 3, 2009 4:57 a.m.
If you’re taken hostage at gunpoint you probably want to make sure Manteca has a SWAT team in the wings.
There is no dispute that a well-trained SWAT team gives police an edge in such a situation which means it improves your chances of survival.
Manteca’s SWAT team, though, may go to the wayside if needed to eliminate the city’s impending budget deficit in the upcoming fiscal year. Such a possible cutback is on Police Chief Dave Bricker’s list of law enforcement services that he has analyzed and essentially ranked in case the squeeze gets so deep he has to cut into the department operations. His goal, though, is to never lose sight of the core business, so to speak, which is putting as much manpower as fiscally possible on the streets for day-to-day patrols and response to emergencies. That is where the overwhelming demand and need is. Bricker won’t argue that point. Reality, though, can’t be ignored. The stream of tax revenue to fund such services is starting to slow down to a trickle from some sources.
Instead of playing politics, dredging up old beefs, or letting biases rule the day the City of Manteca is looking at the way it does business. Everything needs to be dissected, analyzed, and weighed against needs, wants, growth pressures, and available money to do the job. At the same time those who provide municipal services should be paid a fair wage based on their skill sets and the real world. By aiming for the median of surveyed cities as Manteca has done with municipal worker salaries, it provides a fire wall of sorts of having other municipalities lure employees away after Manteca has gone to the expense of training.
Mayor Willie Weatherford’s suggestion that Manteca examine the possibility of two-man staffing of fire engines makes sense when it is applied to future stations to accommodate growth and cover large gaping holes in Manteca’s targeted 5-minute response times for firefighters to reach medical emergencies and fires for thousands of existing residents.
Yes, having three – or even four - firefighters arrive at the same time on the same engine obviously provides more manpower for at least a few seconds until the second engine arrives, but is it absolutely critical or can the same goal be reached by in another way that is more cost effective?
It is a question that needs to be explored.
Manteca Fire responded to 3,120 medical emergencies in 2008 as well as 270 fires of which roughly a quarter were structure fires.
The overwhelming numbers of medical emergencies do not require more than two firefighters. Yes, there will be an occasional accident where three or six sets of hands are needed but that is why you dispatch a second engine in such cases. The one thing people keep forgetting is that an ambulance crew also arrives at the scene of a medical emergency putting four personnel at the scene.
It wasn’t too long ago that police officers, and not firefighters, responded to medical emergencies. Nor was it too long ago that there were two-man fire engines in Manteca.
As for fire calls, you simply dispatch the two closest engines plus back-up engines as is now done.
The central question is how we can afford to build the needed stations and equip and man them to meet the 5-minute response times that firefighters use as a mantra in their line of work of saving lives and reducing property losses.
Keep in mind that during the high flying period from 1999 to 2006, Manteca could not come up with the money needed to build and man two stations that were identified as needed based on the 5-minute response goal. Add future growth to the equation and you can see the pickle the city is in when it comes to providing fire services - or any municipal service for that matter.
The city – read that Manteca residents - need to come to grips with what they need and want and how much they can afford to pay for it.
It is the same as asking yourself how much car or house you can afford or, perhaps more appropriately, how much insurance can you afford.
You can get the Lexus version but you’re going to pay through the nose for having every possibility covered or you could go with a Malibu and get the basics and then some covered.
The same is true of government services.
 No one disputes that Manteca firefighters are dedicated and well-trained. At the same time, the world is changing.

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