OAKDALE — The city is backing off a full merger of its fire department with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District, but it still might have that agency provide the service.
The City Council voted 5-0 Monday night to negotiate a long-term contract under which the district would hire Oakdale’s firefighters and manage the two-station operation. The district already provides management under an agreement reached last year, but the rank-and-file employees are still under the city.
City Manager Bryan Whitemyer, who will represent Oakdale in the contract talks, said he expects the cost to stay within the city’s fire budget.
Interest in a full merger waned when Oakdale officials learned that residents could have to pay the annual assessements charged by Stanislaus Consolidated, which serves much of central and eastern Stanislaus County. The charge this year is $262 for most homes, and businesses pay various amounts.
City officials have struggled in recent years to pay for fire services. The management contract with Stanislaus Consolidated has helped to streamline the operation, as has an agreement under which the city and Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District partner on staffing the G Street station.
The moves have not been enough. The council voted in October to lay off two firefighters as of Dec. 31, reducing the force to 12. It also voted Monday to reduce the G Street station staffing from three to two over each 24-hour period, as part of extending the agreement with Oakdale Rural through June.
Whitemyer estimated that the city would have annual fire costs of $2.45 million if Stanislaus Consolidated managed the department and hired the Oakdale firefighters. Without this change, the cost is projected at $2.51 million, and the South Willowood Drive station would be taken out of service at times, he said.
Whitemyer plans to return to the council with a draft contract with Stanislaus Consolidated, including the financial terms and the number of years it would run. The district is itself the product of a 1995 merger of several agencies.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.