Ballot counting is scheduled to begin Thursday for Measure A.
The San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission voted 3-2 in September to disband the district and the volunteer firefighting force. Residents living in the district decried the decision at the time and collected signatures to urge the county Board of Supervisors to call a referendum on the dissolution, which the board did in December.At the time, the commission cited future budget issues as the reason to dissolve the fire protection district, as the commission believed it would not have the capital to sustain the volunteer force. Since then, every member of the commission has been replaced either by vote or resignation.
The newly completed group is now in favor of keeping the volunteer force, but remains subject to the whims of residents in the district.
Dueling Facebook groups are debating the issues.
On the Julian Fire Services Discussion page, where “no” is advocated, Julian Fire Chief Mike Van Bibber posted a 750-word appeal to “the good citizens of Julian and Lake Cuyamaca.”
In a final pitch, Van Bibber offered arguments for keeping the current last-in-the-county volunteer fire department.
“Our previous fire board erroneously believed, and was able to convince others. that our community-based fire department was financially insolvent, inadequately trained and ill equipped,” he wrote before offering counterarguments.
He said volunteer fire agencies are “proven to be more cost effective and, in many cases, better suited for rural areas such as ours.”
He added: “I can tell you for a fact, and I have been in the fire service for 35 years both paid and volunteer, you will not find a more dedicated, passionate and committed group of volunteer firefighters than our very own neighbors, friends and loved ones that serve our communities.”
Should voters approve the measure, the county would serve the area with contracted assistance from Cal Fire.
Cal Fire Local 2881, the organization’s union, currently backs the proposal, arguing that Cal Fire would only have an agreement to respond to wildfires with traffic accidents and medical calls falling to the wayside if it fails.
The county Registrar of Voters sent out mail ballots for the election last month. For residents who did not receive a ballot by mail, they can vote Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Registrar’s Office at 5600 Overland Ave.
— City News Service contributed to this report.
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