Multiple agencies are negotiating terms for fire and emergency services in Oceano after it leaves the Five Cities Fire Authority (FCFA) next month.
The Cities of Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach have proposed a $1.15 million contract to continue providing fire service to Oceano for another year.
Firefighters and first responders are first on the scene working to save lives in the event of a fire, crash, or other emergency.
“Oceano is a small community. To have them minutes away is a difference between life and death,” said Scott Overman, who lives in Oceano.
The future of fire service is up in the air in the town of more than 7,000 people.
The Oceano Community Services District will leave the FCFA on June 30 after a sales tax measure to increase funding failed last year.
“We see the value in providing contract service delivery to a neighboring community,” said Grover Beach City Manager Matthew Bronson. “Many of our employees live in Oceano and Oceano is a very interconnected part of our area.”
The FCFA will continue serving Oceano until the county CAL FIRE station takes over.
The difference is that Oceano will only be paying for fire service.
They will no longer be involved in the decision-making process.
“Negotiating the contract that needs our interests takes time,” explained Bronson. “I’m optimistic that we’re on a path forward.”
There were disagreements between the three agencies that needed to be worked out, but negotiations are now moving forward.
“We want to be able to take care of that community as we have been since 2010 and the vehicle for that is gonna be this short-term contract,” said FCFA Fire Chief Stephen Lieberman.
The $1.5 million-dollar contract still needs to be finalized and approved by the cities of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, and the Oceano Community Services District.
“This is not the long game. The long game is hopefully entering into a contract with the County of San Luis Obispo to provide fire service for Oceano. That will provide the sustainability of our staffing levels,” said Chief Lieberman.
The FCFA will be completely restructured in the coming weeks and will comprise of just two cities.
“We’ve worked through a lot of different challenges and we’re still working through that,” said Bronson. “I think we’re locked in to making an even stronger and even more effective fire service for our community and doing so together.”
The FCFA is increasing staffing levels in an effort to speed up response times in the coming months.