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January 24, 2021

Mid-County fire agency consolidation plan advances

MID-COUNTY—A plan to consolidate two Mid-County fire districts took a step forward Wednesday when nobody from the community registered a complaint.

Efforts to consolidate Aptos-La Selva Fire Protection District and Central Fire Protection District began in 2019. Fire officials say the move will help departments streamline their services, and help reign in costs by reducing duplication of staff, resources and overhead costs, according to the report.

In a meeting by the Santa Cruz Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), Executive Officer Joe Serrano said that, in order for a delay to move forward, 25% of county residents had to register a protest. As of the end of the meeting, none had, Serrano said.

LAFCO is a state agency that provides local purview of municipal services, and identifies service providers to fill those needs.

When completed later this year—Serrano expects it to be finalized sometime in February or March—the newly created Central Fire District will merge the boundaries of both fire districts, making up an estimated 25,000 acres, more than 30,000 parcels and roughly 90,000 residents. It will serve Aptos, La Selva Beach, Live Oak, Rio Del Mar Soquel and the City of Capitola.

A five-member governing board will oversee the district, and one chief will oversee operations. Aside from those changes, residents will see little else change.

There will be no change to services for residents, and the numbers of firefighters and equipment will stay the same. Moreover, the plan as written now will not include closing any fire stations.

Such a merger is not new for Santa Cruz County. Central Fire Protection District was formed when Capitola, Live Oak, and Soquel Fire Districts consolidated. The Aptos/La Selva Fire Protection District consolidated with the La Selva Beach Fire Protection District in 1986. It annexed the Day Valley area in 1988, the Spring Valley area in 2006, and the Eastern Boundary area in 2007.

“This consolidation has been years in the making,” Serrano said.

LAFCO will next meet on Feb 3.

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