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Gridley Herald

Live Oak Fire Contract Agreed to and Submitted to County

Dec 27, 2023 03:15PM ● By Sharon Pearce

LIVE OAK, CA (MPG) - Live Oak’s City Council met in special session on Friday, December 22, to review and finalize its new fire contract with Sutter County Fire Department for fire protection, first responder, emergency, medical, and hazardous materials response services. The current contract expired on June 30, 2022, but the City has been paying regularly to the County for fire protection to date. The new contract runs from January 1, 2024, to December 31, 2029.

Following questions from each councilmember to Sutter County Fire Chief John Shalowitz and to City Manager Aaron Palmer, the council added language to the proposed contract to set out that Sutter County is to provide to Council a pre-expiration notice 12 months before the contract comes to an end. Sutter County Fire, through Sutter County, is also to maintain a program of self-insurance for general liability, and automobile liability, affirmed by Chief Shalowitz.

With that addition, and a modification to the contract requested by Vice Mayor Nancy Santana where one battalion chief’s salary and benefit costs would be paid 75% by the City in year one, and increased to 100% thereafter, that it be changed to having even year one paid at 100%. That extra cost will be $64,059.75 for an annual expenditure of $256,239 for that item.

The cost share was also increased for the City of Live Oak from 80% to 85% based on call share, as responders reported a growing number of calls from the area. The proposed 5% increase will cost approximately $40,000.

Mayor Ashley Hernandez asked when it would make sense for the City to have its own fire department. Chief Shalowitz replied, “Hard call…the cost is about $1,500,000 to cover a station.” He explained the County covers all human resources, but there is clothing; it costs $7,000 for a firefighter to get on the engine and do his job. Shalowitz also explained that to add one firefighter actually means a day of three shifts, with three persons. Cost is approximately $120K annually for one firefighter.

This special session was set following the wake-up call at the council meeting of December 20 as to how long the fire contract had been pending, though the fire dept. was paid regularly, once attention was turned to negotiating the new sheriff’s contract. The latter “shocked” Vice Mayor Santana, she said, at the December 20 regular meeting, with what was asked for in new expenditure and the negotiation involved.

Chief Shalowitz, in commenting on the delay, said he was told Council wanted to solve the sheriff’s contract first. “I came with a wish list. The city manager wanted stats for the 100% of cost. I am sure with the two contracts moving forward, it was very trying, but that is what I had.”