Mission FD acquires new ambulance, restructures leadership
It has been about a year and a half since the Mission Fire Department transitioned to a fire-based EMS system. Since then, the department has acquired two ambulance units, with a third on the way.
At the Feb. 13 Mission City Council meeting, the mayor and council unanimously approved the purchase of a Type 1 ambulance from Siddons-Martin Emergency Group, LLC. The unit is a 2022 Demers F450; it will cost the city $360,630 of American Rescue Plan Act funds.
The third ambulance will not arrive until April or May because of pending items, and the second unit will not be fully operational until April, even though the department has had it for about two weeks. But by the time Mission FD has all three up and running, they should have the personnel to run the units, assuming the officers-in-training pass their paramedic exams.
Eventually, the plan is to have 15 paramedics on staff by the end of the year to rotate shifts and provide flexibility in case of absences.
To acquire the third unit, the mayor and council needed to reallocate funds initially intended for a system that monitors water levels and pressure in the city. City Manager Randy Perez said city staff anticipated upgrading Mission’s current system, but now those funds go toward the third ambulance.
Council members had initial concerns about reallocating funds for an ambulance and debated whether it was necessary to invest in the third unit immediately. But Interim Fire Chief Douglas Williams said if the city does not make the purchase now, another truck will not be available for another 36-42 months. Ultimately, the mayor and council approved the purchase.
“We need to remember that what we’re spending this money on is public safety. And I think we all agree that public safety is probably our biggest priority,” Mayor Norie Gonzalez Garza said. “So that we’re relocating our line items to address public safety, I think that’s something I would be OK with, definitely.”
Councilmember Ruben Plata stressed to the city manager that he wanted to know about any potential budget reallocations before city staff brings an item before the council.
“You’re moving money from one area to another and I think, as a courtesy, let us know what is it that you changed,” Plata said to Perez at the Monday meeting. “I don’t like to just be moving money around without being very clear. I know we need it, but I think you [need to] let me know what is it that we are not purchasing or sacrificing for this.”
Among the recent changes to leadership at the Mission Fire Department, which includes the retirement of former Chief Gilbert Sanchez, the FD decided to remove the assistant fire chief position. Additionally, since Sanchez retired, the city named former Deputy Chief Douglas Williams as the interim chief in January.
Mission created an ordinance in 2017 to add the assistant fire chief position when former Chief Rene Lopez Jr. retired. At the time, the ordinance reduced the number of deputies from four to three and gave the chief the authority to pick their top assistant.
But as the department has grown, Mission FD added another fourth deputy chief since the 2017 ordinance. And with the repeal of the assistant fire chief position at the Feb. 13 meeting, the mayor and council also approved an ordinance to add a fifth deputy chief. Of the other four deputies, one handles prevention, and the other three manage operations within the department.
Civil Service Director Jesse Lerma said the plan is for the fifth deputy chief strictly to oversee the fire-based EMS transition.
“We started the process with one ambulance, with three paramedics and it’s a lot of work in progress to get to where we want to be,” Lerma said. “But hopefully we get that second ambulance running and get an additional ambulance going. All the staff it takes to run that ambulance, I think the additional deputy chief position…would be beneficial.”
As a lifetime citizen of the City of Mission and a beneficiary of the Emergency Prompt response with the first Ambulance and the Young man that stabilize me understood exactly what my Emergency was, acted, reacted a reported to the Hospital their findings, giving the trauma center time to be readu and got me there fast and comfortable, which in turn saved my life. My Lungs were full of blood and was dying. I also would like to Acknowledge The Most Honorable Mayor whom we voted to change the absolute wrong direction we have been taken. And lastly Mr. Plaza we didn’t vote for you my Brother in Christ to act like the loan officer you worked before, because I can prove you couldn’t even manage your own money when I had to cover for because you didn’t have enough money to pay for the unique services that you requested at your Parents home. Good Job Fire Department
Oh my Lord! Really Commissioner Plata?! Stay in your land and don’t attempt to sound like an actual accountant. Leave that to the experts and actual accounts.