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By Peter Hegarty
The Contra Costa Times

ALAMEDA, Calif. - Some residents may find themselves reaching for their checkbooks after they dial 911 as city officials now look at possibly charging for some police and fire services.
Among the types of calls that soon could generate a bill are someone being locked out of a residence or needing help due to a burst water pipe flooding a home.
Business owners also may face a fee from the city if firefighters are called to help people trapped in a broken elevator at their building.
"The cost of these services is very expensive now," Mayor Beverly Johnson said. "That's what we have got to make people understand things don't come for free."
The City Council began looking at the issue Tuesday and asked City Manager Debra Kurita to check into instituting fees and come back with a report within the next few weeks.
What's not on the table, however, is sending out bills for emergency 911 calls, such as for reporting a crime or fire, or from someone needing medical help.
But the city wants to try to recoup the cost of assisting people locked out of their vehicles or having other similar problems.
"These are situations where they could call another professional, a plumber or a locksmith," Johnson said. "Instead they are choosing to use the fire department."
The amount of the possible fees is unknown.
Fire Chief David Kapler questioned whether creating a billing system would be cost effective, noting that firefighters responded to just 37 calls from people having lock problems last year.
Police Chief Walt Tibbet said patrol officers no longer respond to those types of calls.
But with the council having approved $4 million in cuts earlier this year and with city officials predicting more belt-tightening amid the current economic slump the council now is trying to find ways to save money.
"We are looking at this more from the discussion we had during the budget workshops, where there was a lot of discussion about trying to maintain staffing levels around the optimum of 27 firefighters in order to avoid rolling fire company truck 'brown-outs,'" Councilmember Lena Tam said.
Tibbet said police have fielded about 60,500 calls for service since last year.
Many of the calls already generate cash for the city, such as from impounded vehicles, Tibbet said.
Firefighters mostly handle calls for medical help, Kapler said. There were about 1,000 last year, he said.
On Tuesday, the council also approved raising fees for golfers at the Chuck Corica Golf Complex.
Alameda residents will pay more under the new rates, with the idea being that allowing non-residents to pay less will encourage them to continue visiting the complex, which is operating with a $700,000 shortfall.
The new fees vary according to which course someone will play and for how many holes.
A city resident playing the Earl Fry course on a weekday will pay an additional $3, for instance, while someone from out-of-town will have no increase.
The council also approved amending the city's agreement with SunCal Companies which is slated to redevelop Alameda Point so that the company can use D.E. Shaw as its financial partner.
The New York firm is already SunCal's partner on a 57,000-acre project outside Albuquerque, N.M.
Under the new agreement SunCal will retain day-to-day control of the work at the former Navy base. Redeveloping the site is one of up to seven SunCal projects that D.E. Shaw will finance at a cost of at least $250 million.
Reach Peter Hegarty at [email protected] or 510-748-1654.
People are invited to offer comments on the draft Transportation Element and its draft EIR when the Planning Board and the Transportation Commission hold a public hearing on Monday. The Transportation Element, which includes such issues as a bicycle plan and roadway and transit improvements, will be part of the city's General Plan. The hearing will be at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave.
coming up People are invited to offer comments on the draft Transportation Element and its draft EIR when the Planning Board and the Transportation Commission hold a public hearing on Monday. The Transportation Element, which includes such issues as a bicycle plan and roadway and transit improvements, will be part of the city s General Plan. The hearing will be at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave.

Wire Service
 
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