Oakdale fire district votes for 3 layoffs

February 11, 2010 

BA Oakdale TC

( BART AH YOU / bahyou@modbee.com ) Oakdale Rural Fire Department, CHP and Oak Valley ambulance responded to a two vehicle collision at Valley Home and Lon Dale Roads, approximately 11:45AM. April 27, 2009.

BART AH YOU — Modesto Bee

OAKDALE — The Oakdale Fire Protection District will lay off three of its 15 firefighters March 1 because of a budget shortfall.

The district board voted 4-0 at its Feb. 1 meeting to lay off two engineers and one lieutenant, Fire Chief Lee Winton said Thursday. Board member Derek Davis did not attend the meeting.

The district also is looking at forming a partnership with the Oakdale City Fire Department that would keep staffing at three firefighters at the city's Station No. 1 and would leave the district's station No. 1, which is about a mile away, unstaffed.

"In general, it won't hurt fire service," Winton said.

The proposal eventually could let the district keep its Knights Ferry and Valley Home stations open full time. The two stations have been open half time since October, with one closed when the other is open.

City Manager Steve Hallam said that, without the partnership, the city faces laying off a firefighter and staffing both of its stations with two firefighters per shift instead of the current staffing of three at Station No. 1 and two at Station No. 2.

The City Council is expected to vote on the proposal Tuesday. The fire district board has not approved the idea. Officials hope to have a partnership in place by March 1.

If the partnership is approved, Winton said the district's Station No. 1 still would be used for training and equipment maintenance, among other uses.

Officials said the moves are driven by the recession.

Union president and city fire Capt. Kevin Wise said the proposal would let the departments provide the best service they can during a time of tight resources. But he added that his union has not signed off on the deal.

Hallam said the city expects to end its budget year June 30 with $500,000 less in sales tax revenue than expected for its $9 million general fund. The partnership would save the city money, and the city would tap its reserves to make up the difference.

Winton said the fire protection district should be able to end its budget year with its books balanced, but it will be close. The layoffs will save the district $200,000 for a full year and about $65,000 for this budget year, which ends June 30.

The district will need those savings plus money the state owes it for mutual aid to end the year with a balanced budget, Winton said, adding that the district has no budget reserves.

In October, the district laid off three "limited term" firefighters and started the rolling closures at its Knights Ferry and Valley Home stations. Limited term firefighters worked full time, but at lower pay and benefits than permanent firefighters.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.

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