PINOLE -- The fire department could soon deploy a two-person medical response vehicle at the downtown fire station under a $1.24 million federal grant, spread over two years.
At a special workshop Tuesday on fire department issues, the City Council dashed some residents' lingering hopes that the grant would reopen the closed Pinole Valley fire station. Instead, the council gave Interim Fire Chief Carlos Rodriguez approval to develop a hybrid deployment model at the downtown station, based on how many firefighters are present on a given shift.
Six firefighters would staff two engines, but if only five are present, the department would deploy one engine plus a two-person medical response vehicle. A similar response model exists on an experimental basis at the Contra Costa County Fire District's downtown Walnut Creek station.
Vince Wells, president of Firefighters Local 1230, which represents Pinole as well as county firefighters, noted that the union had spent five years trying to keep Station 74 open. Nevertheless, he said, the union will work with the fire department. The medical vehicle model is subject to negotiations with the union.
Much of the evening focused on Station 74, which was dedicated in 2002, only to be shuttered for budgetary reasons in mid-2011.
Then this summer, the state Department of Parks and Recreation informed Pinole that the fire station, built on a 1.25-acre piece of Pinole Valley Park, violated conditions of a state-administered National Park Service grant that helped the city buy the land for the park several decades ago.
To come into compliance, the city could tear down the structure and put the land to outdoor recreation use, or embark on a retroactive conversion process that would require, among other onerous remedies, replacing the fire station lot with comparable parkland elsewhere in the city, officials said. They noted that a retroactive conversion process could take more than five years.
While out of compliance, Pinole could be in danger of being ineligible for future grants or even have existing grants deferred, Assistant City Manager Hector De La Rosa warned.
Apparently undaunted by the legal or financial hurdles, and whatever the prospects of reopening it, council members pledged intense efforts to bring the closed station into compliance.
"I don't see us tearing down a station as an option for us," Mayor Debbie Long said. "I don't even think anyone's even looking at that. So we need to be able to delay that and still accomplish today's goals."
Resident Tom Cutino, a former mayor, said state officials who refuse "for spite" to give Pinole grants should face legal action for "malfeasance."
Proposals, some from the council, some from residents, included searching for loopholes in the rules, seeking waivers or engaging federal and state legislators to help Pinole navigate the rules.
Councilman Phil Green suggested partnering with the West Contra Costa School District on some school property, such as a ball field at Ellerhorst Elementary School, as a way to come up with replacement property for the fire station lot. Others suggested open space along Sarah Drive, some East Municipal Utility District-owned watershed land or other property.
Later in the meeting, Rodriguez gave a presentation on the future of the Pinole Fire Department, noting that the current stand-alone municipal department lacks the resources to fulfill all the functions of a modern-day fire organization. He urged the council to look into the possibility of "mergers" with neighboring departments, noting that he meant the term to apply to operations and administration, not to governance.
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner.