If there ever was a general sense of confusion and frustration over what to do and how to do it, the situation facing Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District regarding area known as Division 1 North would qualify.
The situation — and its ensuing confusion — is not new. The rural district has been pursuing compensation for service for many years but has been unable to collect.
In an Aug. 1, 2007 story published in The Oakdale Leader, it stated, A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was entered between the county and the rural district in October of 2003 that stated, in part, that the county would transfer property tax collected for the Division 1 North area to the district for as long as the district continued to provide fire services in the Division 1 North area.
To date, there is an ongoing discussion regarding the Division 1 North area with differing opinions on who owes what. The county maintains no money is owed; Oakdale Rural has requested further study in the matter.
On May 14, the rural district held a town hall meeting at the Valley Home fire station with an invitation to the Division 1 North residents to meet and discuss annexation into the district, which was met with varying degrees of assent.
This meeting was one of the subjects of discussion at the Monday, May 21 ORFD board meeting, also held at the Valley Home station.
It would seem the residents in the Division 1 North area, which includes Woodward Reservoir, are split as to their desire to annex into the rural district.
“If I was receiving free service I wouldn’t want to annex,” said Capt. Rob Hoyer, encapsulating the core issue as there is a dollar amount attached to annexation for the residents.
Currently, none of the residents are paying for fire service, although depending on their location receive fire service from ORFD, Farmington Fire, or CALFIRE.
To that end, the district decided to draft a questionnaire to the residents to gain a more accurate view of who wants to annex and who does not.
Currently, the district responds to approximately 40 calls per year to the Division 1 North area and none of those calls are technically paid for.
Previous chiefs have stated they will simply stop providing service to those areas until this situation is rectified, but that has yet to happen.
Tough economic times have forced the rural district to become more proactive by putting wheels in motion to address this issue once and for all.
The letter isn’t meant to be aggressive, but the district wants the residents to know action is needed, one way or the other.
“The intent of the letter is feedback,” said ORFD Board President Sherry Schlegel. “It’s a not a threat or promise discontinuing service or providing service.”
However, without annexation, the residents may be left without fire service from the rural district.
Dovetailing the issue is the Woodward Reservoir section of Division 1 North that needs to be addressed but director John Bairos said they needed to figure out the Division 1 North annexation issues first.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Bairos said.
As summer rapidly approaches the district noted that July is typically a heavy response month at the reservoir as more people crowd the waterways in search of relief from the Central Valley heat.
Response to the reservoir spikes during high traffic holiday weekends, such as the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, May 25 through 28.
In other discussion, it was agreed that the current brown out schedule for the outlying rural stations will remain in effect with an emphasis on more volunteer participation to help cover stations.