It's not bad enough that San Leandro could lose $100,000 if the Alameda County Fire Department finalizes a plan to move its administrative offices from a corner of our City Hall to an entire building in Dublin.
It was how San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy learned of the pending move that irks him.
In a March 22nd video blog aired on Dublin Patch (copy attached), that city's mayor, Tim Sbranti, revealed that Dublin was prepping two city-owned buildings to accommodate county fire department functions that had resided in or near San Leandro for more than 15 years.
That was news to Cassidy, whose office is just steps away from where Alameda County Fire Chief Seldon Gilbert works on the second floor of San Leandro City Hall.
"I don't like being caught by surprise," Cassidy growled.
San Leandro Patch caught up with Chief Gilbert Thursday, who said no slight was intended.
It is important to note that no fire station closures or shifts are involved.
But there is some taxpayer money at stake, along with municipal pride over which town gets to headquarter the fast-growing empire that is the Alameda County Fire Department.
Here's how Dublin made a bold bid to capture the flag.
The story begins in the mid-1990s, shortly after the county fire department first came together. Around this time San Leandro became the first city to give up its independent fire fighting unit and entrust that mission to the county.
At roughly the same time, about 1996, San Leandro expanded City Hall. And in the way of the world, its new partner, Alameda County Fire, sublet a chunk of that new office space.
The fire department has been there ever since. It now has about 15 employees in 3,600 square feet of space that costs about $52,000 a year.
So that money would be lost to the city if the move occurs. In addition, San Leandro would have to contribute a like amount toward the rent of the new offices in Dublin, adding up to about $100,000 loss for the home team.
But as Gilbert explained Thursday, the fire department has outgrown its digs. In the last five years alone it has gone from 220 personnel to about 440 firefighters and emergency medical service providers.
In addition to San Leandro, it now serves Union City, Newark, Dublin and, soon, Emeryville. It also has contracts with Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories.
Gilbert said the deparment has been looking for more space for years and has gone through several competitive bids with private sector rental agents -- some in San Leandro -- but all had come to naught.
Recently, he said, Dublin offered to move the fire department's administrative offices into one building about four times the size of its space in San Leandro -- at $211,000 a year or roughly four times the rent.
Dublin also offered to provide a second site for a maintenance facility -- the department now does that work at Fire Station 24 on 164th Street in Ashland.
The key, Gilbert said, was that Dublin owned both sites. Deals between two government agencies can be done quickly and without competitive bidding.
All that remains is to work out the details and get the deal approved.
"It could come before the (Board of) Supervisors in the May or June time frame," Gilbert said.
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Cassidy said the larger issue is where the department sees its future. He thinks it's on this side of the hills, where the county could potentially take over Oakland's fire protection and create a more compact service area.
So the headquarters should be where the service area is concentrated.
He is also not persuaded the deal makes economic sense.
"It was not done through a competitive bid," Cassidy said.
Gilbert laid out his financial rationale for the move in a March 26 letter to San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata, a copy of which is attached in PDF form.
Bottom line, Gilbert said, is that the department needs more room than San Leandro can provide.
Even a casual inspection suggests that the current maintainence location is cramped. Equipment is serviced on one side of an active fire station that runs trucks out of the other side. Parts are stored in cargo containers out back. Those big honking tires on fire trucks have to be balanced and handled inside one of these steel rectangles.
But according to Gilbert's plan, it would take a $3.5 million investment to get the new yard in Dublin running.
He said the department has a "business model" to expand the repair work it is already doing for other departments -- and could do more of if it had the space -- and make money for the county.
As for quadrupling its office space at quadruple the cost, Gilbert said the department has administrative functions scattered hither and yon. Gathering them all in one place would require fewer copiers and consolidate support staff.
Why one can almost feel the synergy -- and smell the freshly-mowed suburban grass.
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