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Temporary Newcastle firehouse location changes

Firefighters grow weary of controversy
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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Firefighters in Newcastle are facing a move in the near future, but it isn't to the location they initially thought they would be calling home, at least for a little while.

After examining the cost of moving firefighters out of the current building and into a temporary station, the Newcastle Fire Protection District Board of Directors will not spend $90,000 to move its employees to a spot next to the Harvest Ridge Charter School on Old State Highway. Instead, the fire department will be moved to a small plot of land next to Denny's off Indian Hill Road for around $30,000, according to Bob Stearns, vice chairman of the fire board.

"Moving to the other lot will be easier and we have established that moving (next to the school) cost-wise is excessive," Stearns said.

The Newcastle firehouse is being relocated to a temporary station while the fire board sorts out how and where to build a new, permanent structure. Stearns said the firefighters will be out of the old firehouse at 9211 Cypress St. on or before Oct. 29.

The fire board received a final notice in early September from Placer County to obtain an analysis of the firehouse from a structural engineer and building officials have threatened "yellow tagging" the building. That would allow firefighters and employees to enter the building once to gather equipment and then not reenter.

While a yellow tag has not been issued the board decided to go forward with a move because they must show progress in addressing the dangers the current station's structural issues pose to firefighters.

Measure B, passed in a special election last March, enforces a $146.46 parcel tax that can be increased up to 3 percent yearly to pay for a new, permanent firehouse and wage increases and benefits for firefighters. Measure K, which will be on the November ballot, reforms Measure B by capping the $146.46 and 3 percent increase to $30 after three years.

Newcastle Fire Department Battalion Chief Jay Love said the controversy over the firehouse and dueling parcel tax measures have taken their toll on his firefighters.

"It's wearing on them, but they're trying to hold up and keep the good faith," Love said. "It's sad we have to move into the temporary station, but that's what we've got to do until the new station is built. It's not the greatest, but we'll adapt and overcome."

Initially, the temporary firehouse was to be located at a warehouse next to the Harvest Ridge Charter School where the Newcastle Fire Protection District currently houses some of its engines and equipment.

According to Stearns, moving there would have cost the district around $90,000 as a one-time cost, partially due to the utilities that need to be hooked up to the warehouse and the modular home needed to house the firefighters. The fire engine being used on a daily basis would also have to be parked along a curb on the other side of the parking lot of the school to avoid driving across while school is in session.

Crews from Cal Fire were at the proposed location for the temporary firehouse next to the school last week helping Newcastle firefighters clear the area of brush and debris.

"It was work that needed to be done anyway, so we were happy to donate the crew and time to make the school safer for the kids," said Cal Fire Chief Brad Harris.

The new location for the temporary firehouse is next to the small business center next to Denny's in Newcastle. The plot of land needs to be flattened before a modular home, coverage for the fire engine and trailer for the battalion chief and secretary can be brought in.

Moving the firefighters to the new temporary location will cost around $30,000 as a one-time cost and is owned by R&S Properties in Newcastle.

Utilities are within reach and Stearns said the location is still near the center of the fire protection district, so response times won't be impacted.

"What's good about this area is the access to the freeway," Stearns said. "The structure fire engine will be right outside the door so there will be no hesitation."

Feasibility study halted

A feasibility study on the proposed location for the permanent Newcastle firehouse has been put on hold while the fire board examines two other properties.

Stearns said on Friday that the board heard a report on the feasibility study at their meeting Thursday night. The first phase of the study is complete and examined the property's terrain, potential for utility hook-ups and other aspects that could effect construction.

The feasibility study has been put on hold for now as the board looks at properties it considered for the new firehouse previously, Stearns said.

The property being examined by the feasibility study is also owned by R&S Properties and Elliot Rose. Stearns said building an 8,000-square-foot firehouse there would cost around $219 per square foot, or approximately $1.7 million just for the constructing the building not including the groundwork that would need to be done.

"If we find another location there is no sense in going on with Phase II (of the feasibility study)," Stearns said.

Contact Amber Marra at amberm@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.