May 26, 2017
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RP city manager blends fire, police into public safety department

By: Irene Hilsendager
March 17, 2017

(Continued from last week)

City Manager Peter Callinan, who worked at the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp. in Oakland, where he was an accountant and a supervisor. He was hired as city manager last May.

As the city’s first city manager he has a rare opportunity to try theories on the new departments. One idea is the integration of the fire and police departments into a department of public safety.

Old-time firemen and policemen usually oppose this mixing of jobs. But Callinan feels “the whole city force should be utilized” in case of emergency, noting an old firefighting principle that the first few minutes are of utmost importance. A policeman cruising in his car can be notified quickly by radio and arrive at the scene equipped with at least an extinguisher and other basic equipment.

In a large residential development, Callinan feels this can be of great value.

Rohnert Park has a Class VIII fire rating and Class IX industrial. Because of various factors, the homeowners get a Class VII rating for insurance purposes. As improvements are made in equipment and other facilities, there will be efforts for still lower rates.

(Petaluma is a Class III city, one of the few in the state at that high level. Such ratings are determined by the board of Fire Underwriters of the Pacific on the basis of physical surveys of firefighting ability.) Rohnert Park has four council members serving with Mayor Smith. They are Vice Mayor Jack D. Buchanan, Kenneth C. Bell, Dale L. Foust and Jim W. Rogers. Planning commission members are Thomas R. Goff, John E. Hover, Roy E. Leone and James Cronin. There is one vacancy. Recreation commissioners are Donald Davis, chairman; Ronald E. Rasmussen, George W. Endress, Dwayne Strawther, Paul Golis and Sam Bellhumeur. Callinan, heading this group, is 33 years old and receives $7,039 annually.

“You might say we like to handle our own problems,” he says, adding that the city has a low tax rate of 50 cents per $1 assessed valuation.

Rohnert Park contracts for no county services except tax assessing and collecting and services of the county pubic health officer. The Sonoma County Humane Society handles animal control via contract. Plans for the immediate future include an access road along the freeway to the industrial area, which will benefit fire protection; and an 18-hole golf course is to be built, several apartment buildings are under construction and a second swimming pool is planned. And at the public safety building there will be a six-acre park on land between the new Waldo Rohnert Elementary School and the Rohnert Park Junior-Senior High.

The city has a new street sweeper that costs about $10,000. A bit of financing was involved using general fund money. The fund is being paid back by “rental” on the sweeper, which comes from gas tax refunds. Callinan checked with state authorities on this: seems to be all right. There is no gradual way to start a police department. This also has to go from “nothing to something.”

Chief Spinelli already has had to handle one marcher and several burglaries. There also has been quite a bit of juvenile delinquency but the chief feels this is on the wane now. As time passes identities of miscreants become known and steps are taken to keep them in check. The officials believe that an intangible quality known as community spirit is slowing being developed. They remind a questioner that Rohnert Park residents come from a wide variety of locales and when they arrive they have little in common.


Irene Hilsendager’s column each week touches on moments in the history of Cotati, Rohnert Park and Penngrove.