Calimesa continued to move forward with establishing an in-house fire department Mon­day night when city council approved agreements for pre-employment services and a retirement plan.

Copper Mountain Commun­ity College District in Joshua Tree will provide pre-employment testing of potential future fire service employees for Calimesa. Services include agreed-upon exam content and the exam process, such as proctoring.

“I think the agreement is great,” Councilman Jim Hyatt said.

Resident Mike Simon asked council why it decided to work with the community college in Joshua Tree, about two hours east, when local Crafton Hills College has its own well-known fire services program.

“Why would you have to go all the way out there to Twentynine Palms when you have something right in our own backyard?” Simon said to council.

“They did not act like they were interested,” Mayor Jeff Hewitt said, about Crafton Hills. “Remember the county, on this, was not very happy that we might be leaving.”

Simon pointed out that Crafton Hills College is in San Bernardino County, while Calimesa is in Riverside County.

“Cal Fire is a very, very big operation,” Hewitt said.

The city recently extended its current contract with Cal Fire and Riverside County through the end of 2017. The contract was set to expire at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2017, unless Calimesa met the county requirement of staffing a third fireman at Station 21. Calimesa currently has two firemen.

Calimesa council and staff has said it cannot afford a third firefighter at a cost of about $500,000 per year, which is why it is exploring a city fire department.

City Manager Bonnie John­son, who presented Monday night to council, also said an agreement with Copper Mountain College that would address training for new hires was in negotiations.

The Public Agency Retire­ment Services (PARS) program approved Monday is a Defined Contribution Plan in which a certain amount or percentage of money is set aside each year by the employer for the employee.

Hewitt compared the plan to a 401K.

“It’s a good option for the city moving forward,” Johnson said, before the vote.

In comparison, a Defined Benefit Plan, like CalPERS, the traditional retirement system for public entities, allows both employer and employee to contribute. The annual contribution rates are determined actuarially, based upon a required benefit upon retirement.

Both agreements carry minimal costs to the city, mainly start-up fees of a couple thousand dollars or less.

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