Over the last seven years the City of Oakdale has made budgetary reductions including dropping fire department staffing from six on-duty firefighters – three at each of its two stations – to four, with the two city fire stations now staffed with two personnel, one of which is funded by another agency through a partnership.
At its Monday, March 2 meeting, the Oakdale City Council heard a proposal for the city to pursue a federally funded Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant opportunity that could enhance staffing levels at one of the two fire stations by funding an additional position on a 24-hour basis.
City Manager Bryan Whitemyer, along with Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District Chief Randall Bradley, informed the council the SAFER Grant would fund 100 percent of the salary and benefit costs of the three additional positions for a period of two years and could be renewed for another two years.
If awarded, the SAFER Grant would help re-establish the presence of a third firefighter each day at the city’s downtown fire station on East G Street.
In September 2014 the city started contracting with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District for its fire protection needs with existing Oakdale fire personnel transferring over to Stanislaus Consolidated.
Bradley told the council that there were “few strings attached” to the grant but did not want to apply for it without presenting the council with the details.
Bradley said there were no matching fund requirements with the grant, but there is a fiscal “minimum staffing” impact associated with this grant.
To maintain a minimum staffing of three personnel, there would be an increase in the city’s overtime costs when the three personnel are on vacation or sick.
Bradley estimated the city may be responsible for an additional $100,000 per year to cover those costs for the duration of the two-year grant period.
Whitemyer told the council that if not for the passage of Measure Y (sales tax measure) last November; the city would not have the financial resources to apply for the grant.
Additionally, Bradley said there could be no lay-offs or staffing reductions during the grant term and, because of that, he would still have to present the grant to the Stanislaus Consolidated board.
“The money is available for local government, and with the layoffs that occurred, the city is in a great position to receive it,” Bradley said. “I would be surprised if we didn’t get it.”
As part of the presentation, Whitemyer also pointed out that even with the reduced staffing from 2008 figures, the city was still able to improve its “ISO Rating” from a ‘4’ to a ‘3’ last year.
Insurance companies rely on reliable, up-to-date information about a community’s fire-protection services known as an ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating; the lower the number, the more superior the fire protection.
Whitemyer credited the improvement to the contract with Stanislaus Consolidated and the city enhancing its water delivery.
Since Measure Y expires in 2020, Bradley said the city may not have the funds available to retain the three new firefighter positions once the grant expires.
“We may back ourselves into a corner,” Bradley said, pointing out there was no obligation to keep the firefighters added. “I wanted you to have the realization that we may not have funding when it ends.”