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Paramedic Fee Proposed for Murrieta Residents

Murrieta city and fire department management are proposing a $48-per-household annual subscription fee for paramedic service.

A proposal to start charging residents for emergency medical service provided by the city's firefighter/paramedics will be heard Tuesday by Murrieta City Council.

City staff, including Murrieta Fire Chief Matt Shobert, will ask council members during a 4:30 p.m. workshop to consider a $48 yearly household subscription for unlimited medical aid calls. It would cost $24 for residents who qualify as low-income. Businesses would be charged between $75 and $300 per year based on the amount of employees.

If residents and businesses chose not to subscribe, they would be charged $350 for one emergency medical response. The proposal is supported by Murrieta City Manger Rick Dudley and other senior management, according to a staff report.

Shobert said he is in a favor of a subscription fee because the fire department is at a "structural imbalance."

"We have been spending some reserves and if we are going to maintain this high level of service, we have to come up with an alternative funding source or cost recovery," Shobert said, in a telephone interview Saturday.

Residents currently pay for fire protection as part of their property tax bill, and would continue to receive fire service regardless, he said. Cats stuck in a backyard, smoke alarms activating and the like would still be covered at no additional charge, he said.

The push for the extra revenue stems back to nine years ago when the fire department added paramedic service to its previously sole service of fire protection, he said. It was because of inadequate response times from county-contracted American Medical Response, he said.

's stated response times are within six minutes, 90 percent of the time, with the goal of being on scene within five and a half minutes. The county contracts American Medical Response to arrive within nine minutes, 59 seconds, 90 percent of the time.

"The paramedic program was an unfunded mandate in the name of service to our residents," Shobert said. "This is really about trying to maintain the costs associated with our paramedic program. Most of the time we get there first and initiate service and get very little back from the county or AMR."

(Murrieta City Council has requested that the Riverside County Board of Supervisors for the county's ambulance provider, as AMR has held the contract for decades.)

According to Shobert, under AMR's contract with Riverside County Emergency Medical Services Agency, the city is supposed to get one-for-one, meaning bandages, IVs and other equipment used. But they are only seeing a return of about 30 percent of that right now, he said.

In addition, if AMR arrives on scene after 10 minutes, the city can charge $5 a minute, Shobert said. The fire department received about $25,000 in late fees from AMR last year, he said.

"That certainly doesn't go very far when an EKG (lifeplan) costs about $30,000," he said.

The fire department's operating budget for fiscal year 2011-2012 is $11.8-million. It had a reserve of $8.8 million as of July 1, 2011. As of June 30, 2012, a reserve of $4.2 million was projected, meaning the department will have spent $1.5 million in economic contingency funds and $3 million of the reserve pot, according to a December 2011 city report.

Of the department's revenue, a projected $8.3 million was expected from property tax assessments.

The paramedic fees could bring in between $400,000 and $700,000 per year, according to a city staff report, while reducing out-of-pocket costs for emergency supplies.

If Murrieta were to adopt the program, it would not be alone. Several California cities already provide the optional subscription. Corona offers the service for $48 per household, Anaheim charges $36, Burbank brings in $48, Huntington Beach charges $60 and San Clemente $40.

As far as the administrative costs of implementing and tracking the subscriptions and entitled residences and businesses, Shobert cautioned the proposal was still in its infancy.

He said he was anticipating City Council reaction. No vote was scheduled to take place during Tuesday's workshop at

"This is strictly a draft proposal in the early stages of the drawing board," Shobert said.

"We are not trying to defer people from calling 911, we are trying to generate a cost-recovery mechanism to support our firefighter/paramedics."

Ed P. March 04, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Ok this should really crack you up. This $48 fee will not eliminate AMR or your costly ambulance bill. AMR will still have the city contract for transporting people to the hospital. This fee is simply to subsidize a service that has been in place since 2003. If you choose NOT to pay the $48 you will still be billed by AMR PLUS $350 by the city fire department. Seems like a better idea to get rid of AMR and find a contractor that can meet the response times the city needs.
Ed P. March 04, 2012 at 11:59 PM
You'll still have the $1,600 bill even with this $48 fee. Only difference is if you elect not to pay $48 you'll have an ADDITIONAL $350 billed to you by the fire department.
John March 05, 2012 at 07:20 AM
Ed P is RIGHT. this new fee would be on top of the ambulance bill. Idk why the fire dept needs to ask for more money. They already are staffed. Might as well have them do their jobs and quit trying to milk more money out of the downed economy
Joh Q March 05, 2012 at 03:27 PM
. Effort would be better spent fixing the issue with AMR if one exists. I am also very leery about allegations of poor service by AMR coming from the Fire Department, City Council, or anyone associated with them without actual facts being presented. As a physician, I can say that paramedic level services are irrelevant for the first 5 to 10 minutes of ANY medical emergency. CPR, defibrillation, and assessment can be done effectively without the need for Paramedics and it is not until AFTER this has been done that a paramedic would have value. A saturation of paramedics resulting from Fire Departments falsely justifying their needs has led to an overall degradation of pre-hospital emergency services, a fact that has been documented by countless studies yet ignored by Fire Departments who continue to predict death and gloom if we don’t have Fire paramedics arrive within 5 minutes. If the Fire Department is over budget, closing down the paramedic service should be considered first BEFORE closing down any stations.
Major March 05, 2012 at 04:00 PM
First, this is a far to complex subject for a comment forum but in brief, it is my observation and experience that City Government, all Government Agencies, are in their World where the "Elected" will come and go but the "Staff" are there almost forever or try to be and there again, individuals will come and go but the "Bureaucracy" tries/wants to not only go on forever but tries and wants to grow. In in a healthy body, obsolete and dead cells are replaced and changed or become sick and cancerous. I suggest this "City Government" is sick and cancerous; that a thorough and independent audit and analysis of the Murrieta City Government, including Fire, Emergency Services and all departments/agencies needs to be done and that in the end, it would be found that the City, including emergency services and fire could be run better with the money they already have coming in. The City of Murrieta has in fact become cancerous if the jest of what I am saying comes through.
Lee Stout March 05, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I am not convinced this fee or billing option are such a great idea. What if most people elect to opt. and elect not to call 911 at all. What if they elect to drive themselves to the hostpital while having a heart attach? I'm just wondering if we can find a way to fund the program without attaching it to life and death situations? I have no problem with the extra $48 per year, I'm thinking about my elderly neighbors who are on such a tight budget they hit up the local food pantry a couple of times per month to help make ends meet. Wouldn't it be great if they didn't have to find an extra $48/$25 per year or risk a $350 bill.
Murrieta Resident March 05, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Over 41 firemen in murrieta department made over 100k last year per previous article and they have time to keep their engines shiny and train for a half iron man also in a previous article. This in spite of a list a mile long of qualified people who are trying to get a job in the department. Supply and demand states we have a limited supply and great demand for these jobs thus we are overpaying and they want to create additional fees for their services? Redundancy in this economy doesn't make sense. We already have a contracted agency AMR to handle emergency needs, and beyond that everyone who has a mortgage carries fire insurance, so how about the insurance companies or banks picking up that tab instead of us?
Southwestmom March 05, 2012 at 10:09 PM
The reason why the paramedic program within the fire department is necessary is because the city isn't allowed to bring in another contractor to provide paramedic ambulance service and the county isn't open at this time to allowing any other company to competitively bid for the contract. AMR has been given the contract for Riverside County for years without any obligation to improve on services, they do what they want, when they want. If that means dispatching an ambulance from lower 79 to a medical aid call in Murrieta, so be it. There are units responding to Hemet from Sun City on 911 calls and the other way around but no one complains because the public is generally uninformed. The quality of prehospital care is improved with paramedics within the fire departments when your facing extended response times by AMR, regardless of what some physicians want to believe. For me and my family, I would much rather have people respond with the highest amount of training available to be able to administer the most appropriate medical care that is needed.
murdad March 05, 2012 at 11:16 PM
I would urge for murrieta residents to research cities with populations of 100,000. I believe you will be educated with how lean our fire dept operates in comparison. Also who do we want responding to our emergencies, highly experienced professionals, or individuals just out of school? Remember you get what you pay for.
Ed P. March 06, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Your comment is misleading. AMR personnel are not just out of school. They are trained paramedics just like our fireman. I'm not defending AMR. I don't believe setting up a parallel system we now can't afford is the answer. Hold AMR accountable (or any contractor) to whatever response time you require. I'm in no way putting down our fire dept personnel or there staffing. They are great and do a great job. I do question the wisdom of a redundant system Ian times of financial crises all cities are facing.
Kevin Clark March 06, 2012 at 01:30 AM
I completely agree with the "fee" is a and tax for service is obscene. As the article in the California quoted the fire chief "most firefighter paramedics" dept personell have salaries which range from 60,000 to 73,000 "with a slight of hand by the fire chief there is the real cost " overtime" really overtime?! if the "overtime" is part of the job, then the reality is they could and are making around 146,000 a year, oh but then there is the retirement, that needs to be put in too. So you have to multiply the stated salary by an amount of let say 90 percent of the stated salary, you know theone without the overtime. and which they will can collect for the rest of thier lives, so that amount is 65,700 now your really talking so what it really costs is 211,000 dollars of budget mnoney goes to one fire employee (fighter is a marketing tool) not to mention vacations and really 24 hours divided by 3 is 8 hours thats 3 shifts. All the overtime hours could eliminated and the deficit is over. They would be more efficient, more rested, they could spend more time with thier families and the savings would be enough to save the station. hooray So the chiefs salary is 162,000 a year not including overtime or vacation perks or the retirement. making his retiement 90 percent of 162,000 is 145,800 wow so for one year it costs 308,000 for him to be employed. Most calls as stated in the article are medical and I'll go out on a limb to say the rest are automobile accidents.
Murrieta Resident March 06, 2012 at 02:20 AM
From article in patch Jan 5, 2012. Information reported by Murrieta showed the majority of those who were paid more than $100,000 in 2010 were in public safety. Forty-four members of the Fire Department brought home more than $100,000—12 of those firefighter/paramedics and 13 engineers—most likely from overtime costs. This was in addition to three battalion chiefs, 16 captains and one fire chief. In January 2011, the Murrieta Firefighters Association agreed to some temporary pay reductions. Read more about that here. In addition to the police chief, four captains, four lieutentants, 15 corporals and 10 sergeants, 39 police officers took home more than $100,000—also most likely from overtime costs. In June 2011, the Murrieta Police Officers Association agreed to delay a scheduled pay raise for another year. Police Chief Mike Baray also said at the time that the department would not fill a vacant lieutenant position created by promotions.
Murrieta Mom March 06, 2012 at 08:40 AM
Sorry, I'm a little confused. When you call 911, (which I thought our taxes paid for), a whole bunch of firemen show up. I'm not sure why 6 firemen are needed for a medical emergency, but maybe they have their reasons, Then the ambulance gets there, and pretty much all they do is stick you in the ambulance and drive you to the hospital. I'm sure they are doing what they can for you during the drive, no slight intended. So, are the ambulance drivers trained paramedics like the firemen? If they are, it does sound a bit redundant, but the faster help arrives, the better. But why do 2 firetrucks and 6 firemen need to show up for a medical emergency? Maybe Murrieta could save money by reducing the size of the response team to medical emergencies?? They could call for back up if needed, or since the ambulance is on the way too...more help is already on the way. Also, why are we only seeing a 30% return on equiptment when we are supposed to get one for one as stated in the article? They might want to get after those people and get reimbursed!
Murrieta Mom March 06, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Ed P. I would much rather get rid of AMR and have our own Firemen handle paramedic services. I asked about this because of the poor response times my family has received from AMR. I was told the county determines who are ambulance is and we can't do anything about it. Not sure why this is, but seems absurd. We can choose our trash trucks, but not our paramedics!?!?
Major March 06, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Control is Power and you can be absolutely sure who gets Ambulance Service Contracts has and has had nothing to do what is best for the community and individuals it serves but for the Politicians and Bureaucrats that have the control over who is In and who is Not. Never think for a moment where "Back Room Dealing" is concerned that Riverside County is an exception to the rule.
Ed P. March 06, 2012 at 08:32 PM
It appears the best we can hope for is that the county will put the contract out for an actual bid....something that hasn't been done for years.
Tacpilot March 08, 2012 at 06:09 AM
They get much more than 30% for equipment... this is all a ploy for money...
Tacpilot March 08, 2012 at 06:20 AM
There are 2 fire stations in the city that run less than 2 calls per day... The salaries alone for those two stations are probably around 2.25 million dollars per year.. just the salaries! One call probably takes about 30 minutes... so the citizens are paying a crew about $1875 per call these two stations run...
Jon Smit March 08, 2012 at 05:22 PM
I don't like this on bit! I agree with "Tacpilot", if the city is hurting for money, that they now want to charge the tax paying citizens for public assistance, they need to reevaluate their expenses. Why do we need to pay extra when we already pay for Fire/ PD in our taxes? Same reason why I ask, why does Murrieta PD need a swat team? We have the 4th lowest crime rate in the nation but that’s another argument. Maybe this is a way the city is going to try to incorporate the thought of public ambulances in to the FD and out bid AMR, which doesn’t cost the city a single penny. Riverside City Fire doesn’t send a Medic Engine company anymore for the very same reason. Now, AMR responds and if they need assistance they’ll request FD. To reiterate what “Tacpilot” said, Norco is now Cal Fire because the NFD got too expensive for the city. San Miguel Fire (San Diego county) is also doing the same thing watch the video: http://www.smgfire.org/smg_rfp.html It’ll be $48 this year but maybe $448 in a couple of years, if this keeps going. I’m pretty sure we can have Cal Fire/ AMR respond for a ratio of the price.
Jon Smit March 08, 2012 at 05:22 PM
I don't like this on bit! I agree with "Tacpilot", if the city is hurting for money, that they now want to charge the tax paying citizens for public assistance, they need to reevaluate their expenses. Why do we need to pay extra when we already pay for Fire/ PD in our taxes? Same reason why I ask, why does Murrieta PD need a swat team? We have the 4th lowest crime rate in the nation but that’s another argument. Maybe this is a way the city is going to try to incorporate the thought of public ambulances in to the FD and out bid AMR, which doesn’t cost the city a single penny. Riverside City Fire doesn’t send a Medic Engine company anymore for the very same reason. Now, AMR responds and if they need assistance they’ll request FD. To reiterate what “Tacpilot” said, Norco is now Cal Fire because the NFD got too expensive for the city. San Miguel Fire (San Diego county) is also doing the same thing watch the video: http://www.smgfire.org/smg_rfp.html It’ll be $48 this year but maybe $448 in a couple of years, if this keeps going. I’m pretty sure we can have Cal Fire/ AMR respond for a ratio of the price.
Jon Smit March 08, 2012 at 05:24 PM
I agree! If they run limited calls how are we, as citizens, sure they are competent in their medic skills. Am I getting a paramedic or buzz light-year fireman.
Jon Smit March 08, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Exactly! This is why Riverside City Fire doesn't respond to medical aids.
Murrieta Momma March 08, 2012 at 05:51 PM
keep talking, thank you!
Major March 08, 2012 at 07:28 PM
I have long since concluded that particularly where the City, State and Federal Government are concerned, they are like a cancer that always wants to grow and take over and the body it attacks is in the fight of its life. There are those who will say for example that the City of Murrieta could not function without its City Management (call it what you like) but I say this is far far less true than those feeding at the Public Trough would like the rest of us to believe. They do not protect property owner rights, they infringe upon property owner rights; they do not serve and protect the community, they feed upon it and this analogy goes on and on with a few exceptions but it is pointless trying to detail the pros and cons here.What I can say as I have said before; no more money, no more anything without a full, complete audit and public disclosure of where money has come from and has gone for at least the past 5 years...and do not give Norco (North Corona) as an example except for utterly out of control City Government....I know very well the trash truck that group fell off of and millions upon millions of tax payer dollars that "Cancer" has wasted and that is the same path Murrieta is well down the same path.
Kram March 14, 2012 at 01:07 AM
There are a LOT of people on this chain that need to truly educate themselves and STOP drinking the Fire Chiefs Kool-Aid.
EMS mom March 20, 2012 at 11:23 PM
The reason you receive six is probably because the fire dept. sent two apparatus. Yes, the ambulance has Paramedics on board. Most fire medics get their training on ambulances because the call volume is higher and they treat from beginning to end. This gives you more experience in treating patients when you can see if treatments are working or need further more aggressive care. If you are only treating a patient for the first few minutes you never get practice of full patient care. Would you rather see a doctor that only treats patients for the first few minutes or a doctor that treats from start to finish that sees patient outcomes for experience. The doctor thing is just an example. Also, ask your self why are they sending two apparatus? Isn't that costly?
Kevin Clark March 21, 2012 at 05:02 PM
I agree with Kram, the chiefs kool aide drinkers need to look at this issue objectively. I urge everyone to look at the facts on the Ca.State web site that allows everyone to see the actual pay of Murrita City employees for 2010. You'll find that 44 Murrita "firemen" made in excess of $$100,000 dollars last year, with most in the range of $$135,000 and some making more! really??!! This is nothing when you compare it to the "multiplyer" this is term used in the spread sheet I beleive to determine how much money of the citys money needs to be put aside for future obligations such as lifetime! retirement pay and lifetime! health benifits and not at age 62 like the rest of us but 50 or 55. With the average mortality age for men to be around 78 there is a very real possibility that a fire dept employee can collect retiement for a longer priod of time than he ever was employed!!. A good example would be the miltiplyer for the Fire dept's. Chief is X3 and who can retire at 50. The pay for chief is 162,500 this without overtime, so at minimum it costs the city over $$487,000 a year to employ him. This abuse of taxpayer money is not sustainable and like Calpers retirement shortfalls this situation should be addressed by objective outsiders, not by a city councilman who is or was a fire dept. employee. Again 24 day divided by 3 is 8 hours no city employee should accumulate overtime at all. Please look past the benovolent aspect of the occupation and look to the facts.
Jon Q. Public March 26, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Murrieta Fire runs less than 7 thousand calls per year. These are handled by 5 stations. I work for a fire dept that runs 14 thousand calls per year with only four stations and the bulk of those calls fall upon just three of the four due to geography. Our response times are as quick as MFD states theirs are or better. In fact, we have one of the busiest stations in America. As citizens of Murrieta I think it would be a good idea to evaluate your public services based upon a reasonable comparison of like services in other areas. Make an informed decision about how to spend your money here. In deference to a previous post; AMR provides Paramedics. Most, if not all, (and probably all) of your fire department paramedics come from AMR or some previous iteration of AMR - there is NO difference. Furthermore, once paramedics are hired by a fire department they typically train far less for medical emergencies because that training time is supplanted by preparing for fires and rescues. Also, the county requires that private ambulance meets a minimum response time average of 10 minutes or less but that doesn't mean that it takes them 10 minutes to arrive. Take all of these numbers that you hear quoted with a grain of salt. All of the parties involved have something at stake and are vying for your dollars. They have something to sell and need to persuade you. Nothing works better than fear which is a tactic I see being employed here to a certain degree.
Murrieta Resident March 26, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Well said.
Kevin Clark April 11, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I appreciate Jon.Q objectivity. If what he says is accurate, it appears the MFD employees are getting paid a comparable wage for half the calls or "work", with over 70% of those calls being for medical services. And all those should be covered by the abulance company anyway. The MFD (and maybe all FD) are fat with over use of tax payer funds. The public emploee unions, fire departments included, have been the politicians pets for far too long. If you look at any of those unions, teachers or Calpers you'll see everyone of those entities is worse than broke they are in the red by billions of dollars. I agree with one of the previous writters who compared these public entities to a cancer. If the MFD and other Fire entities don't get together and voluntarily cut some compensation and perks your going to kill your host, the tax payer. I also don't agree comparing the MFD with other comparable entities would be beneficial as all it would do is substanciate the status quo. When the average employees of the fire department collects over hundred twenty five thousand dollars a year with full health benefits and vacations, with minimum 90% life time pay and 100%life time health paid something is wrong. This model is not sustainable. We need objective people outside the "club" to make decisions regarding compensation. Vote no on Govenor Browns upcoming tax increase scam, all this will do is continue the over grazing of these overwieght cows...

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