The Coastal Post - November 1999

Fire Station Construction Project

By Mike Aitken

My name is Mike Aitken, President of the Bolinas Fire District. I have been put in charge of rumor control-Fire District rumors only. Especially the one about the fire department building a new firehouse. The rumor is true, we hope; however there is a story behind this rumor.

About a year ago we were preparing to do some earthquake retrofitting on the front of the firehouse. Small stuff to make certain the doors would open in case of an earthquake, allowing the engines to get out quickly. At that point we were looking for government money to help pay for any improvements. However, we also needed other changes made to our firehouse so we requested the help of an architect/engineer. The firm we hired for the study is based in Santa Rosa. It was chosen because of their successful experience with fire stations. Their architect and engineer came out and looked around the present firehouse. I felt at this time that the entire project would cost around $100,000 to $150,000...right! Following the architect and engineer around the building, they ended up saying essentially that the most cost-effective solution would be to bulldoze and start over. The concrete floor the engines sit on is too thin and cracking; the roof is sagging and needs repair; the walls, i.e., sheathing on the outside, are too thin, have termites and rot. All of it should be replaced. The building needs to meet current code standards. Which means new windows, insulation, and doors. Our present building is too small to handle our community's needs when a disaster hits.

Fire engines that are being built these days tend to be bigger and taller. We have carefully specified our new engines so they will fit. The overhead in the garage is too low. The new engine we have has a one-inch clearance when it is full of water. Empty, it doesn't fit. As you can surmise, we have a few problems to deal with. During a disaster, this building turns into the heart of town. It must work properly. The fire district and fire department along with many other people (volunteers within the community) have been putting in many hours trying to come up with an affordable and workable solution to the problem. We need to do more than a band-aid approach to fix this one. We need a firehouse that will work for all of us for many years to come. It is my recommendation that we build a new firehouse. We do not have much of a building to remodel, and the long-term costs of remodeling and later having to remodel again are greater than just doing it right the first time. Do we remodel or do we build a new firehouse? This will ultimately be decided by you, the voters.

Another rumor that I would like to address is about the Bolinas Family Practice moving its location to the firehouse site. We are doing our best to find a way to make this happen. Combining our medical emergency community in one location would make medical calls go more smoothly, especially in time of a major disaster. Now another important part of this equation...cost! We do not have realistic numbers yet, however, we will share them with you, the public, as soon as we know.
Mike Aitkens
Bolinas Fire District

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