First published in the May 6 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
The City Council has prioritized equipment for the South Pasadena Fire Department as well as the public works department for use of funds received through COVID-19 relief efforts.
“I am most interested in procurement of things that are designed to make our employees more efficient,” Councilwoman Diana Mahmud said at last week’s special meeting. “Things that will make their jobs easier. Things that will pay for themselves because they can do more because they have the benefit of technology.”
The fire department needs an air utility apparatus, a rescue ambulance and a self-contained breathing apparatus. The self-contained breathing apparatus, priced at $150,000, is the equipment that firefighters wear on their backs that contain compressed air to provide clean breathing air when they are amid smoke and higher temperatures.
The current packs are 14 years old and have a lifespan of 15 years.
The rescue ambulance would serve as the department’s primary emergency transport. The reserve ambulance, which is used as a backup, is nearing its federally recommended retirement age of 14 years. Ideally, the reserve ambulance will be taken out of service, the current primary ambulance would take its place and a new ambulance, costing $250,000, would become the primary ambulance.
Lastly, the air utility apparatus, the most expensive item at $600,000, fills bottles with clean air so that firefighters can safely breathe in smokey conditions. The apparatus’ cycle schedule is 20 years, and South Pasadena’s current apparatus is in its 25th year.
“These three ticket items, we’ve been looking at these for several years, holding off to the extent possible looking at grant opportunities,” Fire Chief Paul Riddle told the council. “And we’re at the point now where I think we need to seriously consider these three purchases for the fire department.”
The public works department’s primary need is a utility truck that carries asphalt and keeps it warm. Currently, street maintenance crews pile asphalt on a flatbed truck, bring it to the work site and shovel it out. Under this current method, asphalt, which should ideally be hot or warm when spread, often cools by the time it arrives to the work site.
The utility truck has an estimated cost of $300,000. Purchasing the truck would also free up the flatbed truck for other uses.
“Fire chief and public works, those items are pretty self-evidently immediately needed and could yield a lot of utility,” Mayor Pro Tem Jon Primuth said.
Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF, pronounced “slurf”), which were established through the American Rescue Plan Act, would ideally cover for these expenses.
The total allocation for South Pas is a little over $6 million, and the city has already recorded roughly $1 million in expenditures in response to the pandemic. These expenditures include PPE, technology like laptops, cybersecurity software and overtime pay for essential workers.
Additional funding may be available through FEMA and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
SLFRF funds, particularly, must be used to help maintain vital public services, build recovery through long-term investments and continue to fight the pandemic while supporting those struggling with its effects.
In addition to the fire department and public works department’s needs, the council is looking at other long-term options that are in line with the city’s Strategic Plan.
This could include electric vehicle charging stations, software for permitting management, digital record scanning, affordable housing and an IT master plan, which would essentially be a five-year strategic plan with cost estimate for IT.
Creating more efficient operations for city employees has been a priority for the council. It recently streamlined workflow by dissolving or merging a handful of commissions and changing the frequency of how often other commissions meet. An IT master plan with technology updates could further provide help to employees.
The discussion of COVID-19 relief funds comes as the city works on its 2022-2023 budget. It will host a budget workshop on May 25, where the community can see the draft of the proposed budget.