It’s been a study in patience for North County Fire Protection District. That’s why happiness and heavy sighs of relief were both present when ground was officially broken for the District’s new Station 5 in Bonsall on April 10. Numerous “red tape” delays have resulted in the project being started roughly a year later than the district hoped.
“The County process has been extraordinary and tested all of our patience; we hoped to be doing this a year ago, but we are finally here,” said Fire Chief Bill Metcalf. “We have our final meeting with the County [of San Diego] this week, will be going out to bid for construction shortly, and hope to award the bid to a contractor in May.”
The new 10,000 square foot, approximately $3.5 million station has been in the planning stages for over a decade. The 2.67 acre site is on Olive Hill Road just west of State Route 76 and the Arco AM/PM gas station.
“The land was purchased for this station in 2000; since then, we have been saving our nickels and dimes and waiting to see what Caltrans’ final plan for the development of State Route 76 would be, in case this property was going to be put in the path of the new road,” explained Metcalf. “We started in earnest in 2009 to get this project going.”
Deputy Fire Chief Jon Torchia has been the lead for the project.
“He has spent a lot of time moving this project forward and I’m just sorry he is retiring next month; we will have to get him back here for the grand opening when it is finished,” said Metcalf.
Funding for the new station will come in the form of $1.3 million in cash from the mitigation fund and $2.2 million in financing.
“One hundred percent of the costs are being paid using mitigation funds,” explained Metcalf. “We have enough money in our facility fund to cover the full cost, but elected to not clean out the account completely. We will continue to use mitigation fund revenue (new and existing) to pay the note over the next few years.” The use of mitigation fees carries certain restrictions, he said.
“The mitigation fees can only be spent on capital improvements, like this project,” said Metcalf. “They can’t be used for other purposes.”
Metcalf said, “It’s a great time to build. Many construction firms are looking for work so we may be able to get the best cost at this time to do the project.”
The new station will replace the double wide mobile home that has served as Bonsall’s station since 1982. It has been located on land next to Bonsall Elementary School on Old River Road.
“The old station is looking tired, but it has served us well,” said Metcalf. “We have gotten three decades of use out of it, but a lot of things have changed in 30 years in the community.”
Metcalf said a study was done in recent years to determine the appropriate placement and staffing of stations for the current demographic.
“There has been a lot of development and growth over the years and this new station has been justified very well,” said Metcalf. “At one time we thought when this was built it might be okay to combine it with the Olive Hill station, but it has been proven that that would not be a good idea, so we did a remodel of the Olive Hill station in 2007 and it will remain in use.”
“The new [Bonsall] station will include: a three bay apparatus area for one structure engine, one brush engine, and one ambulance; living quarters that accommodate up to eight firefighters including sleeping quarters, bathrooms, kitchen, and a dayroom; a training room, physical fitness area, office space; public lobby and restroom; workshop, storage for firefighting equipment and medical supplies; personnel and equipment decontamination area; personal protective equipment storage, a communications room, back-up power generator area, and a fuel dock,” said Torchia.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, tribute was paid by both Metcalf and Board President Wayne Hooper to past board members and district staffers for what was referred to as “foresight” for this project.
“Deputy Chief Torchia and past board members deserve our thanks for looking forward and making this happen,” said Hooper. “Personally, I think it is nice to have good quality building in our community. I was excited when the new Sheriff’s building went up.”
“Over the past three years, the committee has worked very hard in developing the general plan for the station and is looking forward to the construction phase of the project,” said Torchia. “I think once we start to see the site actually beginning to take shape, the excitement will grow not only within the committee but throughout the fire district.”
The project, which is expected to complete in about a year, will put a feather in Bonsall’s cap.
“It has been over 40 years since there has been a new station constructed in the district,” noted Torchia. And this new building will be in step with today’s expectations in construction.
“This will be a state-of-the-art facility for us; we have included green features in the design and will use some recycled products in construction,” said Torchia, adding that he hopes once it is completed, the community will “view it as an asset.”
Not only will the project better provide for today’s demographics, it will provide jobs in a still-struggling economy.
“This is an exciting day, to finally be able to come here and break ground for a new fire station; it’s a real milestone,” said Metcalf. “In this economy, we are very proud to be able to do this.”
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