Last updated 6/15/2018 at 3:56pm
Unlike its proven ability to put out all sorts of fires of the physical kind, the Julian-Cuyamaca Voluntary Fire District (VFD) experienced an incident of smoldering discord-turned-eruption May 30, after Chief Rick Marinelli and his Fire Captain Dave Southcott got into a heated argument.
Southcott and Battalion Chief Mike Van Bibber had been put on administrative leave in the days prior, and the argument between Marinelli and Southcott resulted in Marinelli calling in a sheriff’s deputy and having Southcott escorted from the building.
The discord certainly arises from the main issue of contention in Julian: Whether the Fire District remains independent, or whether it needs to consolidate with County Service Area 135 for financial and logistical support.
Marinelli is for consolidation, Southcott for independence.
Many residents respect the 37-year old historical bond with the independent Fire District, and some don’t trust Big Government (the County) to follow through with promises of improvement of service.
Back in February, the Julian VFD board of directors reversed an earlier decision to remain independent after losing a critical paramedic fire engine, crew, and financial support from the County.
Since then, the County’s Board of Supervisors has taken action to start the takeover process.
But the issue won’t be resolved until later this year when the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) will decide whether to allow the change after taxpaying residents are polled: If 50 percent or more of the residents say they don’t want the Fire Authority to take over, consolidation will not go through.
If between 25 to 50 percent of the residents tell LAFCO they are opposed, an election will be held to let the people decide.
And the heat builds over what could be a long, emotional summer in Julian.