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Carpinteria-Summerland Fire District to Pursue $10.65 Million Bond for Station Improvements

Funds from Measure Z, going before voters in a May mail-in election, would pay to replace the 90-year-old Summerland facility and upgrade the one in Carpinteria

To replace its 90-year-old fire station, the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District is trying for a $10.65 million bond in a special mail-only election.

County supervisors approved the May 5 ballot initiative Tuesday, setting Measure Z in motion.

The bonds would fund a replacement for the Summerland station and major improvements for the Carpinteria station, making it earthquake-safe, including a training facility and moving the emergency operation center there from the administrative offices.

“The station in Summerland is nearly 100 years old and wholly inadequate,” said Ben Miller, former president of the district’s board. “From a size perspective, it was built at a time when we didn’t have modern engines and it doesn’t even house the size of engines that are appropriate now. It’s seismically unsound and there’s so much deferred maintenance that it’s at a point it outlived its usefulness. It’s served us well, but now it’s time to move on.”

Plans for the bond money would replace Station 2 in Summerland, which is at 2375 Lillie Ave., and build a larger, modern station about a block away at 2450 Lillie Ave. It would be able to house eight on-duty firefighters and four apparatus.

The new site is currently used by the Santa Barbara County Mosquito and Vector Control District, which has agreed to sell the land to the fire district when the time comes, according to the fire district.

A county Grand Jury called for the Summerland station to be replaced in 2001, saying it was in the worst shape of all fire stations in the county, Fire Chief Michael Mingee said.

The fire district has been working with the county planning department and community members for about five years and the plan for a new Summerland station already has county approval and a coastal development permit, Mingee said.

“It’s ready to go, we just need the funding,” he said.

If the bonds are passed by a two-thirds majority of voters May 5, construction could start by January 2016.

A consultant’s study and citizen advisory group recommended that the district pursue a bond measure to fund the improvements.

The Summerland replacement is expected to cost about $4.8 million, including the land purchase, and that leaves about $5 million to do upgrades at the larger Carpinteria station, at 911 Walnut Ave., Mingee said.

The board of directors has been pursuing the project for years and got close to a bond measure in 2012, but several new board members came on board after the election, Miller said. It took time to educate those members and answer their questions, but it resulted in the board voting to pursue a bond measure in November, he said.

Having first responders in earthquake-safe buildings is essential, to make sure they can serve the community during emergencies, he said.

Miller and former board member Lisa Guravitz are some of the community members serving on the campaign committee for Measure Z.

The campaign effort will focus on education and getting people to vote, since the bond needs a two-thirds majority to pass, Guravitz said.

“More than 70 percent of calls are medical and people want to know when they pick up the phone, someone is going to come and be right on it,” she said. Measure Z’s slogan is “Z SAVES: Support Area Vital Emergency Services.”

The Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District’s boundaries are the same as the Carpinteria Unified School District, including the City of Carpinteria and unincorporated Santa Barbara County, including the community of Summerland.

“The district has been successful in maintaining staffing levels, response times and excellent service delivery,” Mingee said. “We’ve even been able to lease a new fleet of fire trucks. However, our stations, which are critical to our delivery of service, just have been overlooked for decades to the point that it’s a critical issue.”

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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