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Fire District Eyes Regionalization Study
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Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueno had just two questions when Raelene Brown presented an annual report from the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District at the Council's Nov. 22 meeting. Brown represents Riverbank on the district board.

When the Crossroads area was developed about 10 years ago, there was some discussion in the Riverbank community of securing better coverage by building a second fire station in the Crossroads area. Why had this never happened? Madueno asked.

For financial reasons, Brown replied. The fire district did not have the funds to provide new buildings or meet operational costs for that area at the time. It is unlikely to have such funds for the foreseeable future.

Madueno's other question concerned the tax increases imposed throughout the district when the district was in serious financial trouble. The community, she said, remained concerned on whether the raised tax assessments would ever be reduced and for what services they were being used.

Brown's short reply was she did not think any readjustment was possible.

Councilmember Sandra Benitez commented, "The fire district does a good job. It straightened out its finances and got back on track."

"Although we've seen a continued decrease in revenue, the agency has a balanced budget and is running in the black. The agency remains fully staffed and continues to operate at the same tempo as in previous years. We expect this to continue into the future," the report began.

Regional approaches to providing fire protection is seeing an increase in interest, the written document continues. Out of 18 fire agencies in Stanislaus County, there have been seven fire chiefs retire or move on within the last 12 months.

The district has completed an 18-month study to contract with Modesto Fire Department and the Stanislaus County Fire Wardens Office, found the final plan unaffordable, but has instituted some operational changes of mutual benefit.

The District is beginning another regionalization study with the Oakdale City Fire Department and the Oakdale Fire Protection District to enhance and stabilize operations between the three agencies.

The last fire season was unusually mild and call volume was down on previous years.

The district is preparing to implement in January a new computer-aided dispatch system that incorporates new technology such as global positioning resource tracking for the nearest unit response.