Despite an earlier decision less than three months ago where council members publicly criticized the premise, the Oakdale City Council reversed its position about paying a third of a Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District study on a fire department merger.
Back on Nov. 18, 2013 Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer asked the city council to pay for a third of the cost – $8,333 – of a $25,000 merger study commissioned by the Stanislaus Consolidated District from July 2013 that had looked into the combining of the Oakdale City Fire Department, and the Oakdale Rural Fire District into the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District.
In response, the council gave a resounding “no,” deciding to not pay that amount since the city had not been asked to pay for the study prior to the consultant conducting the study.
On Monday night, Feb. 3, Whitemyer again asked the council to pay a third of the cost of a $25,000 study and this time the council, despite public protest and its prior decision not to, agreed to part with $8,333.33 of city funds to contribute to the bill.
During the November 2013 meeting when the topic was first discussed, a majority of the council spoke out stating their objection.
“That doesn’t sit straight with me,” said Councilman Farrell Jackson at the time, after he pulled the item from a consent status on the agenda. “I was led to believe something else.”
Councilmen Don Petersen and Mike Brennan had both called being asked to pay the portion a poor business practice since the request had not been paid prior to any agreement to the study.
Jackson had also protested because citizens were led to believe during town meetings that the total cost of the study was being made by Stanislaus Consolidated.
At the Feb. 3 council meeting Whitemyer again introduced the request to pay a third of the cost and used the same reasoning of “partnership” and “good faith” that had been made previously made in November.
The only change was that the city was now looking at contracting with Stanislaus Consolidated for services rather than merging.
Whitemyer explained that Stanislaus Consolidated Board Member Michelle Guzman said their board had been pressed hard by some of its constituents about Oakdale not paying its share of the fire study. He said he was also “pressed hard” by a few SCFPD community members when he attended their meeting last month.
Jackson said he also had the impression that Stanislaus Consolidated expected Oakdale to pay a portion and there was possibly bitterness by district officials when he was contacted about why he changed his vote.
Jackson explained that his goal was to save the city money with the long term benefit with a contract for services and did not want to start off “butting heads” with the fire protection district.
“The basic premise of what they (SCFFPD) did was not right,” said Jackson. “If we went without paying, there would have been some animosity. That’s not a good way to start out.”
“The rest of them switched,” said Brennan, who was the only opposing vote keeping in line with his November decision. “For me, I voted no because we said we weren’t going to pay it and they said we don’t have to pay it.”
For the full story, including community reaction, read the Feb. 12 Oakdale Leader.