Discussions about new fire station to begin tonight

Discussions about new fire station to begin tonight

Michele Ellson
Fire department responses - contributed graphic

City leaders are pressing ahead with efforts to construct a new mid-Island fire station and emergency operations center despite local voters’ rejection of a sales tax hike that would have paid for it.

Public meetings to discuss the city’s goals in constructing the project and residents’ concerns and ideas will be held at 6:30 p.m. today and on September 20 and October 1 at Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue.

“Just because Measure C failed doesn’t mean we don’t need this,” Deputy City Manager Alex Nguyen said, referring to the 30-year, half-cent sales tax measure the city had placed on the June ballot.

Firefighters moved out of the existing Fire Station 3 on Grand Street over a decade ago due to concerns over how the 90-year-old unreinforced masonry building would hold up in an earthquake and have been paying $3,500 a month in rent for a home next door for most of the time since. Nguyen said the existing station’s bays are also too small to hold modern fire trucks.

And city leaders have said their current emergency operations center, located in the basement of police department headquarters, is out of date and may also be vulnerable in an earthquake.

City leaders hope to build a new fire station and emergency operations center on 0.57 acres of former Alameda Belt Line property at the corner of Grand Street and Buena Vista Avenue, a block away from the current station, a request for proposals from firms seeking to manage a planning process for the new facility that was issued in February says. The document, which says building the new facility on the existing fire station site isn’t feasible, says the city is seeking to build it at the new location in the spring of 2014.

The proposed facility requirements outlined in the document are for a “green” two-story building that would house a single engine company with accommodations for a crew of three to four fire personnel, vehicles and a fire boat operator/water rescue station. The facility would have a conference room and other space for an emergency operations center and two to three drive-through vehicle bays, the request for proposals document says.

But a big hurdle the city must clear is determining where the money for a new fire station and emergency operations center will come from, Nguyen said. He said he’s not sure how much the facility would ultimately cost, though in the months leading up to the Measure C vote public officials offered an estimate of $4.5 million.

“A big question in front of us is, how do we get this paid for?” Nguyen said.

One option outlined in the request for proposals is selling the current Fire Station 3, at 1703 Grand Avenue, and Alameda Fire Department management analyst Maria Raff said the department is in the process of researching other funding options. Nguyen said that having a plan in hand that outlines what would be built and at what cost would allow the city to seek out other funding options.

At tonight’s meeting, Nguyen said city leaders will discuss the history of Fire Station 3 and address residents’ ideas and their questions and concerns about the new facility, including questions about whether the city needs a mid-Island fire station and concerns about the traffic and noise that it could generate. He said that feedback will be incorporated into future meetings, where options for what a new fire station and emergency operations center could look like will be discussed.

He stressed that the meetings are “really preliminary” and that additional meetings will be held to discuss the facility plans, including formal public meetings for various approvals of the plans.

“This is a big deal,” Nguyen said.

Comments

Submitted by Mike on Thu, Sep 13, 2012

To Mr. Nguyen's comment; "“A big question in front of us is, how do we get this paid for?”

I would suggest that from a taxpayer point of view, the real question is "Why do we get this paid for?"

First it's the school administration needs to be moved to an expensive rental because of earthquake safety. Now we have to build a new firehouse and emergency headquarters over earthquake safety. What's next, a new city hall over earthquake safety? If only all spending pipe dreams could be linked to earthquake safety.

Get a grip, spenders!

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