October 8, 2013

Oakdale votes to lay off two firefighters

A worsening budget outlook has forced the Oakdale City Council to reduce the firefighting ranks by two. The council had preserved these jobs in the initial budget approved in June.

Two firefighters will lose their jobs as of Jan. 1.

The City Council voted 4-1 Monday night to trim the Oakdale Fire Department staff to 12 to deal with a worsening budget outlook. Councilman Farrell Jackson dissented.

The council had preserved the jobs in the initial budget approved in June for the fiscal year that started July 1. The reversal came after City Manager Bryan Whitemyer noted the budget problems, including rising pension costs for city employees and likely increases in health costs.

The city also faces $10.7million in long-term debt in the general fund and the March 2015 expiration of a half-percentage-point increase in the sales tax over three years.

The income from the tax increase, enacted by voter approval of Measure O, is not restricted to any use, but the council has put most of it into police and fire.

Long-term changes could be coming to the fire service. The city is seeking to merge its department with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District, which serves much of the central and eastern county, and the Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District.

The three are applying for approval of the merger to the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission.

Already, Stanislaus Consolidated manages the two Oakdale-area agencies under contract, and the city and Oakdale Rural partner on staffing one station.

Also Monday, the council took a step toward having Friends of Oakdale Heritage assume ownership of the Oakdale Museum & History Center.

As part of the agreement, the group, which already operates the West F Street museum for the city, would take on major maintenance projects the city cannot afford.

It would include transfer of the Sandl House on Maple Street, a run-down structure the city has rented out to raise money for the museum.

The council voted 4-1, with Jackson dissenting, to have the city staff draft a detailed agreement for later approval.

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