The Sola Street fire station at the base of the Riviera won a 30-day stay of execution at last Thursday’s special session of the Santa Barbara City Council. Council members expressed concern that news of the possible closure — which could have taken effect this Monday — was too sudden and without sufficient warning. Fire Chief Andy DiMizio had suggested the closure as a stop-gap solution for the city’s chronic budget woes.
The closure would have resulted — and may still — from efforts to contain Fire Department overtime expenses to the tune of $400,000. The overtime reduction would have caused staffing shortages, DiMizio said, that could have been solved only by browning out a fire house. Members of the firefighters union objected that the closure would cause service response times to suffer and sought other ways to cut costs or raise revenues.
Councilmember Bendy White noted that the delay will add to the city’s cost burden, arguing that City Hall will now have to figure out how to make do with $4,200 a day less, as opposed to the $3,000 had the cuts taken place this week. (Even so, White supported the delay.) All of that is chicken feed compared to the $9 million budget shortfall city budget planners are preparing for in 2011. White said that translated to reductions in the magnitude of $25,000 a day.