OAKDALE -- An Oakdale Fire Protection District firefighter soon may be working at the city's Station No. 1 alongside two city firefighters.
The City Council unanimously approved a partnership agreement last week between the two fire agencies, City Manager Steve Hallam said.
The agreement now goes to the Oakdale Fire Protection District board members for approval at their Tuesday meeting.
Officials hope to start the partnership March 1.
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Officials say it would:
Let the city maintain staffing of three firefighters at its Station No. 1 by adding a district firefighter. The district's Station No. 1, which is about a mile away, would be unstaffed, though it still would be used for maintenance, training and other purposes.
Let the rural district keep its Knights Ferry and Valley Home stations open the same time on some occasions. A city firefighter would work at one of the stations as staffing requirements allow. Since October, one station has been closed when the other is open because of district finances.
Bolster the two agencies' joint command with district Fire Chief Lee Winton or city Fire Chief Mike Botto or city Fire Marshal Rick Fields overseeing both agencies as needed. Botto retired from the city in December and is working part time on a contract. Winton, who retired from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, has a similar arrangement with the Oakdale district.
Joint effort will be watched
Officials say not staffing the district's Station No. 1 will have minimal effects on fire service. It comes as the fire district thins its ranks from 15 to 12 firefighters to help balance its budget.
The proposed partnership is for six months. Officials say they will monitor how it works if it's implemented.
"If everything goes good for six months, we will probably extend it," said Don Armario, an Oakdale Fire Protection District board member who served on a committee with city and district officials regarding the partnership.
"This should have been done years ago," he added. "The bad economic times are opening up opportunities. This will allow us more opportunities to staff (the Knights Ferry and Valley Home) stations both days."
Hallam said officials with the unions representing city and district firefighters supported the partnership at Tuesday's council meeting.
The partnership would let the city avoid laying off one firefighter, Hallam said, as the city deals with an expected $500,000 shortfall for its $9 million general fund budget, which ends June 30.
Hallam said the city will not fill open general fund positions to help close the deficit.
The city expects to use $300,000 from its $1.8 million general fund reserve to balance its books.
The finances for the fire district are in worse shape. It is laying off one lieutenant and two engineers March 1 to help balance its $1.6 million budget. The three have the least seniority with the district.
Winton, who became chief in the fall, said the fire district has been living beyond its means in the past few years and has no financial reserves.
He said the three layoffs will save the district $200,000 over a full year. Those savings can be used to rebuild reserves so the district has the funding to replace equipment and for training, he said.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2316.