Copperopolis Fire Protection District has named Murphys Fire Chief Steve Kovacs as its new fire chief as Calaveras County fire departments continue to find ways to combine resources.
Kovacs, 44, has been the Murphys fire chief for the past six years and will continue in that part-time role after assuming the Copperopolis position effective July 1.
He replaces Jeff Millar, who was forced to retire from the chief position after the California Public Employees Retirement System changed its rules regarding pensioners working part-time for other PERS agencies.
Millar had worked more than 28 years with Cal Fire before joining Copperopolis.
Raised in Arnold, Kovacs started his career in 1981 with the Ebbetts Pass Fire District. He was promoted to engineer in 1987, captain in 2000 and battalion chief in 2007 with that agency. Kovacs said he plans to resign from the Ebbetts Pass district shortly after stepping into the Copperopolis role.
The announcement comes less than a month after Copperopolis reached an agreement with Murphys to provide clerical services for the district after Office Manager Belva Bristol retired.
On July 1, the Foothill and Jenny Lind fire districts near Valley Springs will take a step toward consolidation with a joint powers agreement that puts them on track to becoming the Calaveras Consolidated Fire District.
The agencies have been sharing Kim Olson as fire chief since May 1 and Jenny Lind submitted a winning bid when Foothill sought a contract for its administrative services. Olson said Foothill and Jenny Lind will likely move from two to one board of directors soon after the JPA takes effect.
Unlike that arrangement, Copperopolis and Murphys will not share a chief position filled by Kovacs but each remains a separate job. Kovacs said his Copperopolis salary will be set at $78,000 annually, the mid-range in a stated salary span between $60,000 and $96,000 advertised for the position.
However, Kovacs does note “there are more and more agencies doing things together, sharing resources and equipment.”
“We’re trying to provide the same services to the public with less money,” he said.
Olson thinks consolidation may become more common in an economically stressed county with 11 fire districts.
“There’s talk,” he said. “There’s a lot of people looking at how we do more with less as we’re dealing with lowered property tax (revenue) … it only make sense to look at consolidation.”
Fewer districts require less reserve equipment, Olson said, which can be a major cost savings.
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