In the name of efficiency and eliminating redundancy, Stanislaus County Consolidated Fire Protection District Chief, Stephen Mayotte, has assumed the role of Fire Chief by Contract for Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District, Oakdale City Fire Department as well as Stanislaus Consolidated as of July 1.
“We discovered that what we can do for one, we can do for three,” Mayotte said of the innovative and historic move to operate all three fire agencies under one chief.
Mayotte, who has been fire chief for Consolidated (covering primarily the Riverbank area) since June 2005, said the decision will allow for more efficient use of chief officers than in the past.
While Mayotte will be at the top of the chain, there will be several battalion chiefs and deputy chiefs to help shoulder the workload.
“We’re hoping through sharing our resources all three agencies should see some operational and financial savings, or at the very least a stretching of the dollar and getting much more than they would on their own,” Mayotte said.
The fortunate circumstance in this restructure was that no pink slips were given, Mayotte added.
“All the fire chiefs (Oakdale City and Oakdale Rural) were retired so there were no pink slips,” he said.
The fire marshal position at Oakdale City was retired when Rick Fields retired and the chief and deputy chief will absorb those duties.
All employees will remain with their agency and retain their identity so the community will not notice the change as it is entirely internal at this point.
“Operationally there will be no difference,” Mayotte assured. “It doesn’t matter what patch is on the side of the arm, the same level of care will be given.”
While there is the potential of blending the three agencies into one regional fire authority, that possibility is in the distant future due to wage and benefit disparities between the three agencies.
“We’re going to need a lot of imagination and cooperation to make this work,” Mayotte said. “It is the desire amongst most personnel to have some blending but the next five to 10 years is going to be a challenge for everyone.”
It’s no secret that the recent changes within the local fire service agencies have been prompted by financial need, but Mayotte was quick to point out that there has been an upside to the budget crunch.
“The silver lining of all this is that it’s causing people to rethink how they do business. We all must try to get the most bang for our resources,” Mayotte said. “Sharing of resources is a wonderful partnership.”
The cost of the merger will be shared amongst the agencies with Stanislaus Consolidated accepting more of the financial burden. It will cost Consolidated $90,000 while Oakdale City will see no increase and Oakdale Rural will see a savings.
Although Consolidated is accommodating an increase, the agency will also gain a much more well-rounded administration that would’ve cost $360,000 otherwise.
“It’s a good trade-off,” Mayotte said. “Does it cost a couple bucks more? Yes, but we’re hoping we’ll have a more robust administration so we can better supervise our personnel and ensure we have sound policies and procedures and practices in place and be a little more efficient and effective.”
However, good savings aside, Mayotte was clear that the primary focus will be the constituents.
“Our focus will be on improving training, staffing stations, and our response times,” Mayotte said. “We want to make sure the level of service to our constituents is as high as possible…in my opinion as long as the constituents remain the No.
1 priority and we all work out everything for them, everything else falls into place. That’s my philosophy, keep them at the top of the priority list, and if you base all your decisions on keeping the constituents happy, it’s kind of hard to go wrong.”