County OKs look for third fire station

Location is set to cover northern San Benito

Fire Station No. 1

County supervisors Tuesday selected a design for a future third fire station.

In October 2015, supervisors selected a location on Rosa Morada Road off Fairview Road as the location for Fire Station #3. The new station would cover northern parts of the county, including areas such as the Four Corners by Dunneville Market.

According to the staff report, the new fire station has been in design for nine months. The project is comprised of three parts: site work, residence renovation and a new apparatus building to house fire engines.

Capital Program Manager Adam Goldstone informed supervisors that staff discovered budget issues in relation to the amount of work needed at the future station location. He suggested saving money by reducing the engine apparatus from three bays to two or even one.

“Again, because there’s not a whole lot of money to take out the other two components and still have a successful project out there,” Goldstone said. “So going down to two bays brings the total cost down about $150,000. In meeting with the ad hoc committee, I think that was something they’re interested in pursuing. That still leaves us with a cost difference. The balance in the fire impact fund is around $670,000. That leaves us about $300,000 difference.”

County documents show cost estimates for a fire station with a three bay apparatus priced at $1,160,022. A fire station with two bays is estimated at $951,280 and a fire station with one bay is estimated at 735,584.

Goldstone explained that the $300,000 difference in the two bay option could be made up with a general fund loan. Fire impact fees, which generate around $10,000 a month, could pay the loan back over two to three years.

“One of the concerns with that though, is that you will not have a fire impact fee balance for at least three years until it starts accruing,” Goldstone said. “There would be some time where if any equipment is needed, there won’t be the funds there in that fund.”

Supervisor Mark Medina asked Chief Bob Martin Del Campo about advantages and disadvantages of a three-bay apparatus compared with a two-bay apparatus.

“So for the particular area, you’re looking at a water system that’s not robust like you would have in a municipality where you have fire hydrants every 400 feet,” Martin Del Campo said. “The configuration of a three-apparatus bay was for the specific fact that you could deploy a structural fire engine, a wildland fire engine and a water tender to the affected area. Areas like Comstock Estates and Four Corners, you have an established water system out there where you don’t have to deploy a water tender, but that’s just two areas in a vast north county area.”

Medina said it felt like supervisors were settling for two-thirds of a finished product.

“I look at it saying, ‘Let’s do it right. Let’s find this extra $150,000.’ These people are paying into the fund and we have to figure out how to do it right. Let’s not settle for anything but the best,” Medina said.

Supervisor Robert Rivas also leaned toward the three-bay option.

“I think from a public safety standpoint, certainly I have no problem moving forward with the three-bay concept,” Rivas said.

A three-bay option would be the best long-term interest for local residents, he said.

“Certainly, I think that in this location, or any location in the county in the future, we want to do the best we can to provide necessary equipment to address these emergencies. That’s a common-sense thing.”

After some back and forth among the board, Supervisor Anthony Botelho brought up inadequate fire department staffing.

“The problem we also have is we could have three bays and three engines out there and guess what the manning of these will be? Two guys,” Botelho said. “And they’re going out with the first engine.”

Botelho said he’s seen other fire departments with two bays and that that would be sufficient.

“We’re not going to have the staffing or personnel to bring the extra apparatus unless we look at alternative fire department options,” he said. “If we go with three bays, we can’t afford two bays today. So we got to talk about how we’ll fund this going forward and if we’re going to take that risk.”

Chairman Jaime De La Cruz said he favored the two-bay option. Supervisors approved the two bay option in a 3-2 vote, with Medina and Rivas dissenting with the majority.

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