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What's next for Oceano after measure to fund Five Cities Fire service appears to fail

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Posted at 6:26 AM, Mar 11, 2020

The unofficial results from the San Luis Obispo County primary election show a funding measure to continue 5 Cities Fire service in Oceano is failing.

Passage of any new special tax requires support from two-thirds of voters. As of Wednesday, Measure A 20 had 65.72 percent of voter approval, meaning it's failing by a quarter of a percentage point.

The measure would have assessed a $180 annual property tax that would have secured $422,000 in funding for a service agreement between the Oceano Community Services District and Five Cities Fire Authority.

This year is the first time voters have been asked to pay an additional tax for Five Cities Fire Authority, which has partnered with the community for 10 years.

"In the past, the only revenue source we had to fund these services is property tax," OCSD General Manager Will Clemens said. "Property tax has been sufficient thus far to provide that service but that's because 5 Cities Fire depends on the reserve program, reserve firefighters, which is really a model that's not sustainable any more. So the reason the costs have increased are moving to full time firefighters."

Ooceano joined in with Five Cities fire after a 2005 feasibility study found stand alone fire departments are not cost effective and by pooling services, communities save money.

With the apparent failure of the measure, the OCSD must find an alternative fire and emergency medical service provider.

Clemens said one option is to divest fire service, at which point SLO County fire services would have to step in.

Another option is standing up an independent fire department, an option that Clemens calls unlikely due to limited resources

And a third option is contracting with 5 Cities Fire.

"There's gonna be fire service provided to the community, it's just a matter of what that level of service is and who provides it. Whether it's Five Cities Fire Authority that provides that service, they serve about 10 sq. mile service area. Or if it's the County that provides the service, who obviously serves a much larger service area, will depend on the level of service provided to the community."

OCSD will remain a member until June 30, 2021.