OAKDALE — Users of most city parks would need a permit to drink alcohol at those sites under an ordinance the City Council took a step toward approving Monday night.
As of press time, the council had not acted on another major issue a proposal to lay off two of the citys 14 firefighters to deal with a tight budget.
The council voted 5-0 to ban drinking in most parks unless people get permits from the Police Department for gatherings. The ordinance would run for two years, to be followed by a review of whether it has reduced problems caused by excessive drinkers.
The council plans to vote a second time Oct.21, likely a routine action, and the ban would take effect a month later.
Kerr Park, a sports complex on the east side of town, would be exempt from the permit requirement because officials say it has not had the problems seen at other parks.
The ordinance is a compromise reached by a committee of city officials and residents concerned about fighting, trash and other problems caused by drinkers at city parks.
Some members wanted strict rules, while others said the city should not punish people who enjoy beer or wine responsibly.
The permits will be free and available at the police lobby at all hours if Police Chief Lester Jenkins or a designated person is there.
The firefighter jobs had been preserved in the initial budget approved in June, but City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said the outlook has worsened, partly because of rising pension costs and likely increases in health care costs.
He noted the citys need to pay down the $10.7million in long-term debt in the general fund, and the expiration in March 2015 of a half-percent increase in the sales tax over three years.
The proposed reduction to the fire staff would take effect at the end of December.
The council had kept the two firefighters in June after hearing protests from residents who believed that public safety should be the top priority for Measure O, which provided for the tax increase in Oakdale.
The ballot language does not require that the city spend the money on police and fire services, but an oversight committee and the council have agreed that these departments should get the biggest shares.
The council was considering a final budget with spending of $26.5million in the fiscal year that started July1.
Roughly a third of that is the general fund, where the council has the most discretion. The rest is for water, sewer, garbage collection and other specific purposes.
Also Monday, the council was considering a proposal from Friends of Oakdale Heritage to operate and maintain the Oakdale Museum & History Center.
Supporters said the arrangement would help assure long-term preservation of documents and other artifacts from the citys past.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209)578-2385.