In an action that could effectively torpedo efforts to contract for fire services with the county, city firefighters this week approved a tentative two-year contract.
The agreement still must be approved by the City Council, which may vote on the matter at its next meeting Oct. 12.
The vote by the Orange City Firefighters Assn. was announced at a council meeting Tuesday as a taxpayers’ group urged council members to investigate contracting out fire services with the county as a remedy for the city’s budget woes.
A dozen members of the Orange Taxpayers Assn. said replacing city firefighters with county firefighters could save the cash-starved city as much as $2 million a year.
In spite of layoffs and service cutbacks, Orange still must close a $2.1-million shortfall in its $47-million 1993-94 budget.
Acting under the advice from the city attorney, top city officials said Wednesday they could not discuss the details of the new contract. However, city officials said more information about the agreement will be available before the council renders a decision.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, taxpayer group members were angered by the news of the tentative agreement between the city and firefighters. They accused the council of stalling a Sept. 14 proposal made by Councilwoman Joanne Coontz to explore contracting fire services with the county.
Taxpayer group members suggested that Mayor Gene Beyer, who was backed by the Orange City Firefighters Assn. in last year’s election, is merely repaying a political debt.
“That’s unadulterated baloney,” Beyer said. “I’ve never been influenced by groups that have supported me.”
“They don’t know what’s in the deal,” Beyer added. “It addresses their (financial) concerns.”
Even after the tentative agreement with the city firefighters was made public Tuesday, the City Council nevertheless directed interim City Manager William F. Cornett Jr. to pursue a study on contracting fire services with the county and report back within two weeks.