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Oceanside Safety Plan Update

The Oceanside Harbor and Beaches Advisory Committee has heard several safety proposals to replace the current safety model implemented in 2009.

OCEANSIDE- Oceanside Harbor and Beaches Advisory Committee met on March 21 to hear a revised version of the harbor’s proposed safety plan. After two hours, they ultimately voted to send staff back to the board until the committee’s June meeting. 


The current safety plan is a police-based model implemented in 2009. It has eight officers and one sergeant providing 24-hour coverage of the harbor. 


The harbor unit is charged with land-based policing services, water rescues, and boating safety enforcement. Lifeguards are provided for the harbor’s beaches and are part of the Fire Department’s Lifeguard Division. This plan costs the harbor $2,500,000 annually for police services and $220,00 for lifeguard services. Police costs are expected to increase to $2,878,181 for 2022/2023. 


In 2020, staff assembled an informal working group of harbor stakeholders, which met six times to discuss the current safety model and develop options for a new plan. As a result, three options were presented to the committee on Nov. 15, 2021. 


– Shift harbor public safety duties to an expanded and reorganized lifeguard unit. 

– Reestablish a harbor department and revert back to a previous safety model, which puts the harbor department in charge of safety needs. 


– Create a Coastal firefighter/paramedic squad which is a modified lifeguard model.

Staff was sent back with an emphasis on the first lifeguard-based model, which would add ten new personnel, one supervising lifeguard lieutenant, three lifeguard sergeants, three beach lifeguards, and three fire captains providing coverage in 24-hour shifts. 


Staff would be in charge of boat operations, rescue swimmer, fire suppression, emergency medical services, hazardous materials response, and vessel, dock, and facility inspections. 


           The proposed plan would cost the harbor $2,446,385 in 22/23, saving $340,796 annually. 

           However, with the new plan, there are also one-time costs that will be added to the original estimate. For example, with staff planning to work in 24-hour shifts, there is an estimated $900,000 cost for a living space. 


           There are concerns from members of the committee about the cost of implementing the new plan with an upcoming revitalization of the harbor, which is over 65 years old, on the horizon. 


           Liz Rhea, Chair for the Harbor and Beaches Advisory Committee, also voiced concerns over the recent formation of a new union for lifeguards and the new contracts’ effect on the budget.  


           One meeting attendee voiced concerns that the new plan does not have a police unit and would rely on the lifeguard unit to deal with situations they are not trained for. 


           In the proposed plan, the newly created unit would conduct harbor patrols between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day. Police would not have a permeant presence in the harbor but would expand their beach patrol to cover the harbor, and they would be available for emergency calls. 


            The committee voted to send staff back to the drawing board to look at a plan that doesn’t involve fire captains, changes the 24-hour shift to an 8-hour shift, and looks for accommodations in an existing building or using the new firehouse that is set to be built in the harbor. 


           “We have had a good working relationship with this whole thing, and I hope to keep this working relationship going that we can tweak this one or come up with a proposal or something,” said Liz Rhea. 

Staff is set to return at the June 11 meeting. 

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