MODESTO -The Modesto City Council is torn between having its first debt-free city budget in years and a public safety concern.
The dilemma started earlier this month. Modesto’s fire stations were part of the Modesto Regional Fire Authority, a cooperation of Modesto, Salida, and Stanislaus County Fire companies since 2011. The authority disbanded June 12 and Modesto took its fire stations back.
“Then we bring them into the city of Modesto, they’re coming home so to speak, and we have to bring their budget in,” said Councilmember John Gunderson of District 1.
In order to run the fire department, Modesto had to cut $4 million dollars, which meant Station 6 on Standiford Avenue would have to close and its staff relocated to other stations. Gunderson urged the council to reconsider since Station 6 serves several businesses including the Vintage Faire Mall. In order to save Station 6, the council would have to borrow $1 million from other city accounts.
“A lot of suggestions about borrowing from the employee benefit trust or fund, and also from workman’s comp,” said Gunderson.
“Really what are your priorities? I think public safety is a pretty big priority.”
The finance committee is currently reviewing the budget issue. Gunderson wasn’t sure if Station 6 would still close on July 7 as scheduled, or remain open until a final decision is made.