Chief: Keep Fire Station 2

Closing and selling Fire Station 2 to cut costs is out of the question for Costa Mesa Fire Chief Mike Morgan, who says doing so could increase response times and create long-term problems for the department.

The proposal to sell the firehouse at 800 Baker St. is one of 19 suggestions the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. came up with to help the city close a projected $16.4 million budget gap next fiscal year.

"It would increase paramedic response time into those residential areas south and north of Baker," Morgan said. "There are a lot of residential and a lot of apartments in that area and we don't want to increase response time in those areas."

Morgan said he discussed the idea with City Manager Allan Roeder and they agree that closing the firehouse would not be in the best interest of the city. The Baker station houses four personnel and one engine.

The closest firehouse to Station 2 is Station 6, about 1.9 miles away at 3350 Sakioka Drive. In a response letter to the employees association, Bobby Young, budget and research officer, said closing the Baker firehouse would require a reassessment of fire station locations citywide.

In their suggestions to cut costs, the employee union lists $173,000 in revenues the city could raise from selling the firehouse. The association is suggesting that multiple-level housing be developed in place of the firehouse, generating long-term property tax revenue for ailing city coffers.

Costa Mesa has six fire stations. Before its financial crisis, the city had in the works a seventh station to be built on South Coast Drive near Harbor Boulevard.

Eliminating one when another is needed would create problems for the city, especially if major fires break, Morgan said.

As a way to reduce spending, Costa Mesa reached a deal with the Firefighters Assn. that reduced the minimum workforce, allowing 12 firefighters to retire early in an effort to net save about $1.1 million a year. Beginning in July, the department will have 28 firefighters and one battalion chief instead of 32 firefighters and one battalion chief on duty each day.

The reduction is already expected to have an impact on the department's response time, Morgan said.

The department tries to keep its response time to five minutes, Morgan said. Closing the firehouse would increase it, he said.

Costa Mesa's proposal to lay off or reduce 77 jobs impacts mainly association employees.

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