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Fire Merger - More Time Needed In Contract Talks
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Details are still being sorted out in the merger of Oakdale Rural Fire Department with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District and the City of Oakdale contracting with the fire district for fire services.

During a Fire Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday, April 2 in Riverbank, officials from all three agencies discussed particulars as it applies to their respective areas.

With the merger, LAFCO now only has to approve the one agency absorption – Oakdale Fire Protection District – however a chance for the affected areas covered by the district to protest would still have to be provided.

Questions surrounded station staffing regarding both Oakdale Rural and the City of Oakdale.

At a previous meeting, Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer stated that without the continuance of a sales tax measure that brought in an additional $1.5 million to city coffers, which he equated to 11 public safety positions, the city would not be able to sustain the same level of service it provides now.

Stanislaus Consolidated firefighter labor representatives were concerned with only a 9-person total contracted staffing for Oakdale Rural and possible cuts to the city fire department.

“If Measure O were reduced today, it wouldn’t have any effect on the operation of Stanislaus Consolidated,” Whitemyer said. “If a sales tax measure doesn’t pass, we have to look at service levels the city could afford.”

“We need to come up with two different scenarios,” Oakdale City Councilman Farrell Jackson said, referring to whether or not the sales tax measure is continued in Oakdale.

Brian Kelly, consultant to the district, urged the firefighter unions to work out “lifestyle issues” for the merger and contract such as seniority, overtime, and layoff procedures.

Union representatives present stated those issues were agreed upon.

For Oakdale, Whitemyer stated two things were needed for the contract for services to proceed; the unions needed to be in agreement and the city and district finalized a contract for services.

Under the proposed contract, the city firefighters would become employees of the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District.

“I believe we can’t move forward until we get an evaluation report from PERS,” said Whitemyer about the retirement system’s report about the transference.

Also under the original plan, the city was to keep ownership of all equipment, including vehicles.

Whitemyer informed the group that he was advised by risk management advisors that the situation would create a “messy situation” if a Stanislaus Consolidated Fire employee driving a city fire truck got into an accident.

Other concerns regarding equipment were that maintenance and repair of both agencies’ apparatus were conducted by the same company or individual to keep consistency.

A working draft contract that officials have been using was made available. On it, Whitemyer had noted several comments where more discussion or details were needed.

In other actions by the committee, Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District officials declined the offer of Oakdale city officials to lease the Hershey Building as a headquarters.