ORINDA -- A plan by the Moraga-Orinda Fire District to buy land in Lafayette for a new fire station is back on the table, and the district is once again negotiating the purchase.
The move was approved Thursday by directors Steve Anderson, Alex Evans and new board president John Wyro after being rejected in a 3-2 vote in May. The board is currently operating with four members after director Frank Sperling -- who opposed the purchase -- resigned last month. Director Fred Weil continues to oppose the project.
The approval authorizes MOFD Chief Randy Bradley to begin negotiations with the owners of the 2.33-acre parcel on Lorinda Lane where "Station 46" is planned. That station will replace a Contra Costa Fire District station in west Lafayette the county closed in January, along with other facilities, due to budget cuts.
A new Lorinda Lane station also would replace MOFD's station on Via Las Cruces in Orinda, which MOFD has already spent about $275,000 to rebuild.
MOFD had originally planned to buy the Lorinda Lane land and build the station jointly with ConFire -- a proposal Bradley and ConFire Chief Daryl Louder estimate would save taxpayers $80 million over the next 40 years.
That idea was shot down last month by a majority of Contra Costa County supervisors who liked the proposal but didn't support the partnership's timing during continued station closures and other turmoil. An MOFD board majority also squashed the idea, arguing that the district lacked a financial partner and would be spending taxpayer dollars to improve service to Lafayette residents not in their district.
Since then, Lafayette has been studying fire service alternatives, including leaving ConFire and joining MOFD. The city believes its taxpayers are now overpaying for fire service and subsidizing the county -- an argument ConFire challenges. So MOFD director Anderson -- who had previously supported the consolidation but ultimately voted against it -- asked the purchase be considered again.
On Thursday, board president Wyro worked to convince board members to approve entering negotiations with the property owners for that location.
"The only solution I see to make (Station) 46 work to help with our sustainability is to build a Station 46 with Lafayette or ConFire," Wyro said. "But one way or another it needs to happen and it needs to happen there."
Because county regulations prohibit a fire district from purchasing property outside its boundaries, MOFD will once again ask the city of Lafayette to buy the land on its behalf, Chief Bradley confirmed in an email. The city council will make that decision, said Lafayette City Manager Steve Falk.
Should the purchase go through, the property will likely be held by the city of Lafayette until the district finds a financial partner in the county or the city to divide the land purchase, site and utility work, and station construction costs.
Officials have estimated the total initial cost between $5 million and $6 million, excluding staffing and annual operation costs.
ConFire Chief Daryl Louder has said he does not currently have plans to approach county supervisors but continues to monitor the situation. He did not return a call seeking comment.
For Lafayette, funding a land purchase and station construction is not yet in the cards.
"The city does not receive property taxes to fund fire service delivery, and the city also -- unlike fire districts -- does not have special capital funds reserved for the reconstruction of fire stations, or a dedicated revenue source for that purpose," Falk said in an email.