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Five Cities Fire is funded for another year, but 2020 is uncertain 

On June 12, Oceano was the last of the Five Cities Fire Authority trio—which includes Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach—to approve a second amendment to its joint powers agreement that will fund fire services for another year. The amendment also established a backup plan if Oceano leaves the agreement due to a lack of funds.

Karen White, vice president of the Oceano Community Services District's board of directors, said the district's duty is to supply emergency, medical, and fire services to Oceano.

click to enlarge IN THE NOW Oceano and Grover Beach took their turns signing an amendment for the Five Cities Fire Authority that also creates a funding plan if Oceano backs out of the agreement next year. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • IN THE NOW Oceano and Grover Beach took their turns signing an amendment for the Five Cities Fire Authority that also creates a funding plan if Oceano backs out of the agreement next year.

"What's going to happen a year from now? That is then, and this is now, and we've got to move forward now to keep fire trucks rolling," White said.

The second amendment established a new funding formula for the joint service slated to go into effect for the 2019-20 fiscal year. It increases Oceano's contribution to $1.1 million, a $75,765 increase; Arroyo Grande will pay nearly $2.6 million, a $147,187 increase; Grover Beach will put forth $2 million, a $71,422 increase.

Under the current funding model, Oceano only has two fire personnel, while Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach each have three. In order to afford three, Oceano is placing a measure on the 2020 ballot to generate additional revenue for their share in the joint services agreement.

If the measure doesn't pass, Oceano will cease to be a member of the Fire Authority on June 30, 2021. The amendment creates a pathway for Oceano's resignation that will be followed by a 16-month "wind-down period" to distribute assets and payment liabilities. If Oceano leaves the joint powers agreement, the new funding formula will not go into effect.

"Until the community decides what they want, we need to continue. After that, only after that tax, are we going to be able to really decide if they don't want the Five Cities Fire Authority and then what kind of service they're going to have because there are many options," White said. "There is no way to get out of paying for fire service for the community of Oceano, and Cal Fire is not a cheaper option." Δ

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