ORINDA -- Moraga-Orinda Fire District directors will meet Tuesday to decide whether to move forward with purchasing a $1.2 million parcel of land on the Lafayette-Orinda border on which they and Contra Costa Fire District officials want to build a joint fire station.
The decision whether to exercise a purchase option on the Lorinda Lane property will come two days before a $15,000 deposit placed by the district last month becomes nonrefundable.
Should the board decide next week not to cancel the agreement with the property ownersk, the district will have 60 days to finalize the purchase. County supervisors, who oversee ConFire, have not yet agreed to the purchase or entered into a legal agreement with MOFD to operate a joint station. MOFD fire Chief Randy Bradley said he hopes to come to basic terms on a draft agreement with ConFire Chief Daryl Louder by next Tuesday's meeting.
If supervisors decide not to pursue the joint venture, MOFD could annex the land and purchase it in case Lafayette one day decides to detach from ConFire and join MOFD in the future.
"The thought is the board of supervisors will understand the importance of realizing these efficiencies and vote for us to create this partnership," Bradley said.
Officials have proposed building a station at that site that would continue to serve residents of northeast Orinda while protecting areas of Lafayette affected by the county's decision to close the Los Arabis Drive station in response to financial difficulties. The fire district would build a station on a half acre fronting El Nido Ranch Road -- an idea some neighbors oppose.
ConFire and MOFD officials had previously explored the idea of consolidating the stations to address inefficiencies created by having two facilities spaced just 1.5 miles apart, but ConFire never agreed to the idea. Under the current proposal, MOFD would close its Miner Road station. That station had been slated for reconstruction, which is now on hold.
After hearing arguments for and against the merger at a public workshop held before Wednesday's meeting, directors Steve Anderson, Alex Evans and John Wyro voted in favor of considering the purchase. Director Fred Weil joined board president Frank Sperling in opposing further negotiations.
Anderson and Evans pointed to an estimated $1 million annual savings for MOFD resulting from the consolidation as motivating their support, and have indicated the money could help address unfunded liabilities and the district's long-term viability, which Evans said may be at risk. Officials have said the consolidation could save both districts an estimated $60 million over the life of a 30-year joint operating agreement.
Weil had previously supported continuing negotiations, but on Wednesday cited a number of concerns about the merger, including a conflict over who would have control over the joint station.
He also pointed toward more ConFire station closures and service reductions -- including possible staff reductions at another Lafayette station suggested by Louder at a supervisor's meeting last week -- as another reason the consolidation might not work in MOFD's favor.
"We get $1 million but shoulder greater burdens with the potential of less equipment and less firefighters and less backup than before with a little net cost to the county." Weil said. "So it's a very good deal for the county. But in terms of service, not so good for Orinda and Moraga."
The MOFD board will meet at 7 p.m. in the Orinda Community Center Room 9, 28 Orinda Way.