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Riverside OKs Fire Service Bond Measure

The City Council puts the $20-million proposal on the November ballot. One councilman says passing the construction measure is 'critical.'

June 11, 2003|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

The Riverside City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to place a $20-million bond measure on the November ballot to build new fire stations, training facilities and an emergency operations center.

Council members said before the 4-0 vote that the bond measure is vital to the city's future.

"This is not 'Fix it up because it's the nice thing to do,' " said Councilman Chuck Beaty. "This is critical for the Fire Department and the safety of our people."

Fire Chief Dave Carlson said the measure is needed to replace out-of-date facilities, already stretched in serving the city's booming population.

"We have these needs, and there's really no other method to [pay for] them," he said.

"We're looking at something that would help finance them, that wouldn't be too painful and that wouldn't put a burden on the general fund."

Roughly $12.8 million of the money would replace four fire stations, two of which have already been identified.

One, the downtown station on Mission Inn Avenue, built in 1957, would be moved near 14th Street and Olivewood Avenue.

The north-side station on Main Street, built a year later, would be replaced by a facility north of California 60.

Carlson said the existing stations are cramped and outdated.

When they were built, the stations didn't need the large garage space required for today's specialized equipment, sleeping quarters for female firefighters or access for the disabled.

As requirements changed, stations were unable to keep pace.

Earthquake retrofitting for one station garage alone could cost $800,000, he said.

Moving the stations will help the Fire Department respond to the city's changing population.

Between 1980 and 2000 the city's population increased 49%, or 84,000 people, but calls for paramedics and firefighters have increased 700% over the last two decades, Carlson said.

"This will improve the level of service, the response time and the overall effectiveness of the department," Riverside City Firefighters Assn. President Tim Strack said.

About $2.5 million in bond money would pay to tear down and replace a "burn building" and a multi-story training tower.

For more than three decades, rookies learned to fight fire at the two facilities, but wear, unsafe conditions and air-quality concerns mean both must be rebuilt.

Classrooms would be updated and moved near the two training buildings for $850,000.

An emergency operations center would be built for $2.5 million near 14th Street and Olivewood Avenue.

The remaining money would be used for administrative costs and interest on the bonds.

Councilwoman Nancy Hart urged citizens to support the measure.

"The community out there is aware we are growing by leaps and bounds as a city," she said. "I know citizens usually do the right thing.... I hope most citizens will be on board to support this at such reasonable cost."

The seven-member council, three of whom were absent Tuesday, also officially called a Nov. 4 election for four council seats, three of which are being vacated by retiring incumbents Chuck Beaty, Joy Defenbaugh and Laura Pearson.

Councilman Ed Adkison is the lone incumbent seeking reelection.

The election "will have a significant impact on the policy and direction of the city, based on the makeup of the council," said George Caravalho, city manager.

In addition to balancing growth, downtown development, job creation, congestion, crime, substandard housing, parks and other issues, the new council will have to write a new general plan for the city.

"That will dictate the long-term direction of the city," Caravalho said.

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