LAFAYETTE -- A plan officials argue could save taxpayers up to $60 million over 30 years by consolidating two fire stations in Lafayette and Orinda under a long-term agreement faced more scrutiny this week as city leaders got their first formal look at the idea.
Fire agency leaders voted last week to continue negotiations with the county on the consolidation plan.
Moraga-Orinda fire Chief Randy Bradley received approval Wednesday from his board to keep discussing the plan with Contra Costa Fire District Chief Daryl Louder. In it, MOFD would shut one of three fire stations in Orinda and jointly purchase land on the Lafayette-Orinda border to build and staff a new fire station with ConFire.
The districts began discussing the consolidation in January after ConFire shut the Lafayette station -- and stations in Martinez and Walnut Creek -- after budget cuts. Under the proposal, MOFD would close its station on Via Las Cruces and relocate to a site near Highway 24.
The chiefs say the move would save each district about $1 million annually. However, the county's savings would come only if the Lafayette station were operating.
And while a majority of the MOFD board has approved further talks with ConFire, including nonfinancial negotiations with four property owners to purchase land near El Nido Ranch Road, board president Frank Sperling said he isn't confident the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors -- which oversees ConFire -- would greenlight the consolidation.
Sperling also questioned the wisdom of making an agreement with the county, from which Orinda detached to form MOFD in 1997, and said deeper analysis of the consolidation is needed.
"I look at this as a folly and I really don't want to spend another dime on this folly," Sperling said, alluding to the district placing the Orinda station's reconstruction on hold since consolidation talks began in January. MOFD has already spent about $275,000 on Station 43's redesign.
About a half-dozen Orinda residents also spoke out against the station merger.
Lamorinda's fire service woes came up again Thursday during a meeting between elected officials from Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga. City and town leaders discussed the proposed station consolidation as a group for the first time, and asked questions about its impacts and financing, including where ConFire plans to get the money to pay for its half of the new station.
Louder said the district will look for other revenue sources and investigate how internal funds can be potentially reallocated. In a subsequent interview, Louder said ConFire has "several million dollars" in capital funds available for construction or land acquisition, but did not provide an exact amount.
As for suggestions raised at the meeting by MOFD board member Stephen Anderson, who said as a "private citizen" that Lafayette should detach from ConFire, Louder was more specific.
"I think Contra Costa Fire has provided excellent service and protection to the residents of Lafayette," he said. "We intend to continue doing that in the future."