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ORFD Questions Division 1 Coverage
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When hard times hit, budget scrutiny is the norm so it was no surprise when Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District Board members brought up the troubling confusion that surrounds the area known as Division 1 North and exactly, who is paying for their fire service coverage.
“The issue at hand is that the Board feels that we are providing free fire protection for Division 1 and it feels there should be some sort of compensation for that service. The calls for service will vary from season to season with vegetation fires, increased traffic flows, etc. in the general area during the spring, summer, and fall…The agreement that we have is quite vague and does not have an ending date for when the agreement will terminate,” Oakdale Rural Protection District (ORFD) Fire Chief Lee Winton stated. “There have been letters written to the County in previous years which have not resolved the issue for the District.”
The issue was first addressed in 2007 when Capt. Rob Hoyer was the interim fire chief. At the May 16, 2007 board meeting, Hoyer was directed to draft an official letter and report to the county regarding possible funds due to the district for fire protection service provide to Division 1 North area, which includes a large portion of Woodward Reservoir.
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.
Hoyer had stated, “This is money guaranteed to us and we’ve upheld our end of the bargain.”
To date no money has been paid, however, according to then-Stanislaus Auditor-Controller Larry Haugh, the reason no funds had been paid was because no money had been collected.
In a letter addressed to District 1 Supervisor Bill O’Brien, Haugh had stated, “…There are no taxes being collected for fire protection or any other property taxes identified as Division 1 North area. While this item is ambiguous, we do not believe it was the intent of the drafters of this agreement to transfer property tax receipts away from other taxing agencies…” It further states, “…It is our understanding that the boundaries of Division 1 North area do not fall within a fire protection district. As part of the agreement, the Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District was obligated to provide fire protection to the Division 1 North area. Previously, Stanislaus County Consolidated Fire Protection District was responding to incidents in the Division 1 North area. To compensate Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District for these new services, a contribution not to exceed $300,000 was made to the district for the construction of the North area fire station…”
While the issue seemed put to rest by the county’s standard, the issue is still a bone of contention for the rural district.
“The original document is very vague and there is no end date stated for coverage,” Winton said. “We’re providing service that’s not being paid for. How long does that $300,000 cover out there? Costs are being incurred.”
The board authorized district personnel to draft another letter to the county to address this issue. This will be the third letter sent to the county regarding this issue.