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Chumash Fund New County Firefighter, Paramedic Positions Near Santa Ynez Valley Reservation

An amicable agreement was reached Tuesday between the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, which volunteered to increase fire protection efforts near its Santa Ynez Valley reservation.

The board unanimously voted to renew a contract the Chumash already had with the County Fire Department, whereby the tribe funds a fourth firefighter/paramedic position at Fire Station 32 in Santa Ynez near its reservation along Highway 246.

Chumash officials offered to replace that 2002 agreement and to add a fourth firefighter/paramedic position at Fire Station 30 in Solvang as well as provide one-time funding of an aerial ladder truck costing up to $1.6 million.

Each position that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week adds three full-time employees, meaning the Chumash tribe will fund six jobs when the new post is effective April 1, 2016.

County Fire Chief Eric Peterson said additional support would improve fire operations in Buellton, Santa Ynez and Solvang.

The fully equipped ladder would be especially helpful, he said, since the tribe has already begun work to expand the Chumash Casino Resort — plans that include a 12-story tower.

The tribe plans to add 215 hotel rooms, 584 parking spaces, gaming floor space and other improvements to ease overcrowding at the 190,000-square-foot complex. The project is expected to be completed in 2016.

The ladder truck will be stationed in Santa Ynez or Solvang once the contract becomes effective July 1.

The annual cost for the two positions is $1,162,000, Peterson said. Since the post in Solvang won’t be established until next year, staffing costs for the 2015-16 fiscal year were estimated at $726,250.

Supervisors said the commitment was even more notable because the State’s Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund, which previously helped foot the tribe’s mitigation bill, was eliminated this fiscal year.

Three public speakers were in favor of the contract, commending the Chumash for its continued efforts.

“We really need the additional help,” Solvang City Councilwoman Joan Jamieson said.

New positions help the tribe as well as the community, Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta said.

“It’s great to hear the positive voices come from the crowd,” Armenta said. “I think it’s important for us to have a government-to-government relationship.”

The tribe has a similar enhanced services contract with the County Sheriff’s Department.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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