The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District has had to close four of its 28 fire stations, lacks funds for basic capital needs and has launched a study to determine how it can restructure to save money.

Yet its leaders, the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, voted Tuesday to proceed with talks to jointly build and operate a new fire station with the neighboring Moraga Orinda Fire District.

If those two messages seem inconsistent, that's because they are. This is sheer folly.

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill was the lone voice of sanity. No matter how good the deal for a new fire station might be, she noted, the district can't afford it. "I think the rest of the community will be jeopardized if we move forward with this plan," she said.

She's right: Continuing with this charade falsely raises expectations.

Chief Daryl Louder insists the district -- serving much of Central County as well as Antioch, Pittsburg and San Pablo -- will save money. But that calculation assumes that the district first reopens its closed station in Lafayette. It's not clear that will ever happen. So, actually, the new station would require the district to spend more, not less, money.

Supervisors must get a grip. They need to first figure out how they are going to provide and pay for existing services. Increasing the burden is irresponsible.



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