ALAMEDA -- The City Council has OK'd spending $5 million for the design and construction of a new fire station to serve the center of the city.

The money will come from a mix of one-time funds, an internal loan and external financing under a plan that the council approved unanimously Tuesday.

"I think the residents of Alameda deserve a modern firehouse that can get the men and women to the place of emergency as soon as possible," Councilman Tony Daysog said.

The new station will be built at a city-owned site at Hibbard Street and Buena Vista Avenue and replace Fire Station Three, which operates out of a former family home that the city rents on Grand Street because the station's building on the same block is not earthquake safe.

While firefighters at the station cover 911 calls in the surrounding neighborhood, they also respond to every structure fire in the city as a backup for other crews, said Jeff DelBono, the president of the local firefighters union.

What helps make a new building necessary is that the station's firefighters can experience delays when responding to an emergency because they are based in the former home and so are not as close to their trucks and engines as they would be at another station, DelBono said.

"This is an important fire house, period," he said.


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The bulk of the money for the new station, or $3 million, will come through a loan from the California State Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank, or "IBank," which offers financing to public agencies for infrastructure projects at interest rates generally lower than what is available on the open market. City officials expect to get about a 4 percent rate on a 20-year loan.

The other major portion of the funding, or $1.2 million, will come through an internal loan from the city's Equipment Replacement Fund, an amount that also includes the anticipated proceeds from selling the site of the closed station at 1703 Grand St., which has been appraised at $475,000.

The council's decision Tuesday, however, just authorizes city officials to put the property on the market. Any sales agreement with a potential buyer will require additional approval.

The total expected cost to the General Fund over the 20-year period of the loan will be about $8.10 million -- $1.19 million in one-time funds plus $6.91 million in debt service payments, according to a background report prepared for the council.

The cost will be offset, however, by the approximately $50,000 that the city will save annually from not paying rent for the house at 1709 Grand St., as well as the anticipated energy savings from the new station.

State and federal grants were not available to fund the design and construction of a new station, fire Chief Mike d'Orazi said. "Most of those dried up in about 2010," he said.

Rehabilitating Fire Station Three, which was built in 1924, is not a viable option. In addition, the building is too small to accommodate current standard fire trucks and equipment, according to City Manager John Russo said. The building has been closed since 2001.

City officials are also planning to build an Emergency Operations Center near the new station at Buena Vista Avenue and Grand Street.

Contact Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him at Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.