A consent agenda item by the city manager requesting the city pay over $8,300 for a joint fire study sparked discussion at the Monday, Nov. 18 Oakdale City Council meeting. The item had some council members questioning the intent of asking the city to pay for something they were told was being taken care of by the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District.
The consent agenda is a tool used to streamline meeting procedures by collecting normally routine, non-controversial items into a group whereby all are passed without discussion with a single motion and vote by council members. Council members and the public have the ability to pull the item for discussion.
In July 2013 the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District entered into an agreement with Capital Public Finance Group of Roseville to conduct a financial analysis for merger of the Oakdale City Fire Department, and the Oakdale Rural Fire District into the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District. The cost of the study, $25,000, was initially paid by Stanislaus Consolidated.
As a result of the study, public meetings were held, including Oct. 28 in Oakdale where details of a possible merger and the financial impact of the study were shared.
This week, City Manager Bryan Whitemyer proposed through a consent agenda item that since the study benefited all three fire agencies it was reasonable that the cost of the study be divided equally among Stanislaus Consolidated, the City of Oakdale, and the Oakdale Rural Fire District.
“That doesn’t sit straight with me,” said Councilman Farrell Jackson who pulled the item from consent status. “I was led to believe something else.”
Jackson said he, and the public, were told that the study for the merger had no financial consequences to the city when it was proposed.
Whitemyer explained that the idea of splitting the cost of the study equally came from an ad-hoc group he was part of and not from the Stanislaus Consolidated Board of Directors.
“In an effort to have a partnership going forward, the city was asked to pay a third of the cost,” said Whitemyer. “As an effort of good faith to be part of that partnership is why I’m recommending it.”
Whitemyer added that Oakdale Rural Fire district already agreed to pay a third of the cost.
Councilman Mike Brennan said that these types of costs were usually discussed “up front” before the study was completed.
“This isn’t the way we should be doing business,” Brennan said. “We didn’t give our citizens a chance to have a voice in it.”
“The message was that Stanislaus Consolidated was going to do this whether or not we were involved,” said Councilman Don Petersen. “This could have been done better.”
Oakdale resident Mike Eggener told the council that when the public hearing about the possible combination occurred, citizens were told that the study was being paid for by Stanislaus Consolidated and the city had no financial impact or responsibility for the research into the merger.
“It’s inappropriate to bring this forward at this point in the game,” said Eggener. “Some people are for it, others are against (the merger). We shouldn’t be held hostage to pay.”
In a subsequent motion by Jackson not to contribute city funds to the study, the council voted, with Councilman Tom Dunlop absent, unanimously, 4-0.
In other actions, the council approved a motion to use $1.2 million in federal funds for road improvements to South Yosemite Avenue and pedestrian improvements to the Cottle Trail and area surrounding the proposed skate park.
The city also authorized $25,000 for a consulting contract with Quality Service, Inc. for water system technical assistance.
Whitemyer indicated that the service was needed because city personnel who were tasked with the responsibility “left room for improvement.”