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California City Council Delays Ambulance Staffing Plan

The Long Beach City Council may delay the start of a controversial plan that changes the way the city's Fire Department staffs its ambulances.

A resolution on Tuesday's agenda would protect 21 jobs in the department and also would postpone spending cuts.

Here's what's at stake: The City Manager's Office and LBFD officials have proposed the so-called "rapid medic deployment model." Currently, the city puts two paramedics in advanced life support ambulances and two emergency medical technicians in basic life support ambulances.

But under RMD, all ambulances would be staffed by one firefighter/paramedic as well as an emergency medical technician. RMD costs the city around $150,000 less per month, but it also trims 21 firefighter positions, a consequence the city's firefighters union doesn't like. The union also says the move would reduce the level of care the department provides.

District 5 Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, District 8 Councilman Al Austin and District 9 Councilman Steve Neal wrote in a memo to their colleagues and to the mayor that they want to consider delaying the start of the RMD plan because the Fire Department is on budget and it doesn't seem necessary to implement the more frugal RMD plan at this time. They want more information about the plan and the department's finances.

"We request that the City Council receive a report on the status of implementing RMD and the current state of the Fire Department's budget, so the council can determine whether now is the appropriate time to begin implementation of RMD, or if it is more responsible to have further discussion" during budget talks, they wrote in the memo.

City Manager Pat West is expected to give his proposed budget to Mayor Bob Foster by July 1.

Also on Tuesday, the council is expected to put the final touches on a plan to cut the number of billboards in residential areas. The council has spent years developing a program that caps the number of billboards in Long Beach, but billboard companies could remove signs from residential areas in exchange for electronic billboards near busy highways.

Some billboard companies, however, have questionable signs that don't meet the technical requirements of the trade-in program, but they still want electronic billboards.

The city has proposed a development agreement to accommodate those companies. But to figure out the impact of those development agreements, the city needs to inventory the billboards around Long Beach. Billboard companies would be charged a one-time fee ranging from $8,250 for one billboard to $20,750 for 90 or more.


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