MORAGA -- The Lafayette City Council is set to vote July 22 on an agreement with the Moraga-Orinda Fire District for purchase a $1.2 million parcel of land on the district's behalf, using the district's money, for a jointly operated fire station.
The agreement would permit Lafayette officials to buy the property for the district, as the district is legally prohibited from acquiring land outside its boundaries. The city would then hold on to the 2.33-acre parcel until the district can form a partnership with the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District or other entity to construct the new fire station officials have estimated could cost between $5 to $6 million to design and build.
The Moraga-Orinda district must close escrow by July 25.
A nearby fire station on Charles Hill Road in Orinda would close as part of the deal; fire officials have argued the new joint station would provide better response times to Orinda and Lafayette residents -- an argument some district residents dispute.
Lafayette officials have been exploring alternatives to fire service, including possibly leaving ConFire and joining the Moraga-Orinda district, after the county closed a fire station in the western portion of the city in January due to budget cuts and a failed parcel tax measure.
Bradley -- who Tuesday took over as chief of the Modesto Regional Fire Authority -- reiterated this week his support for the land buy, and said he believed the district can reach a partnership agreement with ConFire.
And while he didn't provide any specific details, Bradley hinted that the agreement may not resemble the plan departing ConFire Chief Daryl Louder offered at a Contra Costa County supervisors meeting last week. Louder proposed the county would not pay for the station's operating and staffing costs until its finances stabilize.
"ConFire is a viable partner. They have stepped up and created another offer. I don't think it's a good offer. It's not an offer that I have agreed to or proposed, but at least they're willing to negotiate," Bradley said.
After hearing Louder's proposal July 9, county supervisors -- a majority of whom previously voted against the partnership, citing ConFire's financial turmoil -- agreed to allow Louder to resume negotiations with the Moraga-Orinda district.
Should Lafayette officials decide to greenlight the agreement, they would use the district's capital funds to buy the 2.33-acre parcel. The purchase agreement also includes another $15,000 deposit to be paid to the property owners, one of whom is acting as the property broker. The district lost a $15,000 deposit last May after a board majority voted to withdraw from an earlier purchase agreement.
The Moraga-Orinda Fire District board on Monday greenlighted the agreement with the city of Lafayette. Directors Stephen Anderson, Vice President Alex Evans and board president John Wyro also approved the "joint powers agreement." Director Fred Weil dissented.
The board's approval came despite fierce opposition from some Orinda and Moraga residents. Former board member and Moraga resident Dick Olsen questioned the legality of the agreement, arguing the city of Lafayette doesn't and currently can't legally provide fire services to its residents, therefore making a joint powers agreement impossible. He also cautioned that the purchase funds will come solely from Moraga and Orinda taxpayers, and since no security or other assets or interest are being provided by the city in exchange for the money, the district could be making an "illegal gift of public funds" to Lafayette.
Orinda resident Jerry Dimsdale warned of other consequences.
"The problem appears to be this board moving forward in a direction that the residents do not want, your constituency does not want," he said. "There has come into question some legal issues associated with the funding that you want to pursue. I think you need to put something in your budget for legal defense because of what illegal activities you want to pursue."