Police, fire: Backers say the measure would raise $960,000 annually for five years.

11:00 PM PST on Thursday, March 10, 2011

By GENE GHIOTTO
The Press-Enterprise

Canyon Lake residents will decide on June 7 whether to support a public safety tax to help pay the cost of police and fire services.

The City Council voted 5-0 Thursday night to place on the ballot a proposal that backers say will raise $960,000 annually for five years. That amount represents about a third of the city’s annual police and fire protection costs.

Without the tax, the city would have to again dip into its reserve fund to maintain the current service levels.

“We can’t afford to reduce the quality of service we have,” Councilman Jordan Ehrenkranz said prior to the vote. “We don’t have any other choice.”

The council approved the proposal following comments about police and fire service costs and what the city considered when looking at maintaining service levels. They included grants, an EMS subscription fund, a fire suppression fee and a city fire department.

Jack Wamsley, who was on a committee that looked at public safety issues, urged the council to put the proposal on the ballot. He pointed to the other services provided by Cal Fire, such as swift water rescue and a helicopter, while downplaying the city fire department.

“For us to go to a private (fire) company, I think, would be very, very expensive for us to get this kind of service,” Wamsley said.

Cal Fire Southwest Division Chief Steve Gallegos, who oversees fire services in Canyon Lake, on Wednesday asked voters to be thoughtful when they considered the proposal.

Gallegos said if the measure fails, there is a chance that Station 60 would have to close, which would mean it could take longer for fire crews from outside the gated residential area to respond to an emergency.

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