East County News Service
March 7, 2015 (Spring Valley ) – Out of money to complete construction and maintenance of a partially-built training facility in Casa De Oro, San Miguel Fire District on March 11th will consider a proposal from the County Fire Authority to take over the lease, move forward on construction and assume maintenance responsibilities.
The training facility was deemed a high priority in 2007 for San Miguel, which signed a 30-year lease with Otay Water District for the 3.53 acre site, which would be operated jointly with Heartland Fire Training Authority (HFTA). From 2007 to 2009, San Miguel received over $2 million from an Indian gaming grant to build phase I, which was completed In June 2012. But there was one big problem: the site included only concrete, fire hydrants, props and a bridge overpass – but no water meter, so the training facility is still not operational.
According to a staff report sent to the San Miguel board and authored by Tony Mecham, Cal Fire and County Fire Chief, “The District and the HFTA both lack the funds to develop the remainder of the project to completion.” Local governments that comprise the Heartland Fire authority have been challenged to raise the funds and the cost of opening the facility exceeds $1.5 million – not counting the ongoing maintenance costs.
Costs for minimal improvements r required to use the training site total about $1 million for a water meter, water recovery system, Campo Road improvements, access road and minimal updates needed, unpaved.
Since the County Fire Authority needs a training center, Mecham says, the County proposes to fund, develop and operate the training center for the remainder of the lease.
The County would invest $1.4 million in fiscal year 2014/2015 to make the facility operational. After that, the County Fire Authority will commit another $500,000 for development of training props and facilities.
The County will control the lease and County Fire training staff will maintain the center. County Fire will remain a member of the HFTA with an in-kind membership with direct funding of the training center, and HFTA can reallocate funds currently dedicated to HTF-Spring Valley to ongoing issues at the current HTF-El Cajon site, the memo adds.
The staff report recommends that the San Miguel Fire District board author a resolution to enter into negotiations with Otay Water District to assume the master lease.
San Miguel taxpayers would incur no costs and the long term estimated savings for the district would be in the millions of dollars for the county to develop and operate the training center.