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.