Five Cities Fire Authority seeking huge cost increases

The Five City’s Fire Authority Board recently adopted a five-year plan that could result in a 70 percent increase in the annual budget.

Formed in 2010 under the auspices of saving money for the communities of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano, the fire authority is struggling to exist because of funding constraints and increased costs. Funding issues include budget overruns, unfilled positions and health and safety concerns as firefighters work overtime.

Late last year, Chief Steve Lieberman warned the board that “rolling blackouts” or alternating temporary closures of the Oceano and Grover Beach fire stations could be necessary.

The three members of the board — Arroyo Grande City Councilwoman Barbara Harmon, Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals, and Oceano Community Services District President Karen White — rejected that idea in favor of a strategic plan that includes hiring three new firefighters rather than relying on reserve firefighters.

In order to implement the strategic plan, all three communities would have to agree to the plan.

On Jan. 9, the Arroyo Grande City Council will consider the fire authority’s request. Grover Beach is set to discuss the issue at an upcoming meeting.

On Jan. 10, Oceano General Manager Paavo Ogren said the association is “at a crossroads,” in a staff report. The participating agencies, “may determine whether the FCFA continues to exist, is dissolved or is reorganized,” Ogren wrote in his report.

Because of the uncertainty of Oceano’s ability to continue to participate in fire authority unless the public votes to raise property taxes, Ogren recommends his board open up discussions with San Luis Obispo County and CalFire.

CalFire currently serves the community of Nipomo, City of Pismo Beach, rural Arroyo Grande and Oceano State Beach — surrounding the fire authority’s jurisdictional boundaries.

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6 Comments about “Five Cities Fire Authority seeking huge cost increases”

  1. William J Sidis says:

    Too much money being spent on things it has no business being spent on and not enough for necessities like fire protection. Cut spending elsewhere and there would be no problem…although I agree that the “call in sick for each other” scam, if true, needs to be brought to a screeching halt!

    1. ArroyoGrande2000 says:

      The “call in sick for each other scam” is done in more departments than just fire, police, corrections, social services, and likely most public service departments.

  2. Julie says:

    Arroyo Grande is already dipping into reserves to sustain their city, this will be a devastating blow to services historically enjoyed by Arroyo Grande residents. FCFA wants ultimately wants $900,000 additional by year four.

  3. Boldguy says:

    I remember not to far back, SLO City fire fighters having a scheme going, a fire fighter would call in sick, one of his buddies would cover his shift and get overtime, then he would later call in sick so his buddy would make up for the lost day at overtime rate:(
    Back and forth, around and around it would go!
    This is really about pension cost’s, the golden goose has been strangled by public employee’s:(
    Maybe they could become a sanctuary Fire Department, replace the fire fighters with illegal immigrants at minimum wage!!!

    1. perk o late says:

      The same ‘let’s take turns being sick’ scheme happens at CMC. Government employees have the game figured out and taxpayers in CA are oblivious for the most part.
      Our cities are poorly represented by Harmon from AG, Shoals from GB and White of Oceano. It was easy to see years ago that the FCFA was not sustainable, yet they kept pushing on like some kind of magic was going to happen. Guess what??? We’re broke folks and Oceano for one is not going to approve more increases.

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