An artist's rendering of the front entrance of the planned Calexico Fire Department’s new headquarters on Fifth Street, which could be finished by the end of 2020. | Drawing by Ten Over Studio and used by permission of the Calexico Fire Department
CALEXICO — After a decade of planning 2020 could finally be the year the new headquarters for the Calexico Fire Department gets built and possibly opens, according to several city officials.
The project has been fully
funded for several years but not built, forcing fire crews to live out of
another location since late 2017 due to the deteriorated conditions at the
current fire station.
Bids for construction are
expected to go out in January, said Calexico City Manager David Dale. Demolition
of the semi-abandoned Fire Station No. 1 at 430 E. Fifth St. could occur in
The garage of the station
is still used to store the department’s fleet of response vehicles, but the living
quarters for the crews are inside the former Calexico courthouse on Fourth
Street, directly behind the station. That is due to health and safety considerations,
city officials have said.
“We’re going to demo the
whole building and build new in its place,” Dale said in a recent interview.
Project Gets Big Push
On Dec. 18, the fire
station build took a big step forward when the Calexico City Council voted to increase
the contract amount it was paying fire station designer Ten Over Studio of San Luis
Obispo an additional $10,500. The work will now include assisting the Fire
Department in putting together the bid advertisements and information needed to
get a construction team in place and the project started.
Ten Over Studio has been
involved with the city fire station project since at least 2017, when the
project was first designed, according to information found on the firm’s
It appears the Calexico
designs were honored in 2017 with a “recognition award” from the Fire Industry Education Resource
Organization. However, according to backup information in the Dec. 18 council agenda,
the initial contract with Ten Over Studio dates to Dec. 5, 2018.
The total amount paid to
Ten Over Studio has been $557,675 since that initial contract.
Fire Chief Diego Favila
could not be reached by deadline to clarify some of the timing issues or
additional questions on the history of the project, including what looks to be
years of delays between when the project was first funded to where it now
“We tried to do the bid
within the department. But when you’re trying to build a fire station, there’s
a lot of specifications and laws you’ve got to follow out of California that
unfortunately we are not professionals in doing that,” Favila told the council
on Dec. 18.
“However, Ten Over Studio
is and they are going to do the bidding for us. They have a plan on advertising
for us, and pretty much take care of the whole bidding process,” the chief told
the council before it approved the additional expense by a 3-0 vote.
Council members David
Romero and Lewis Pacheco were absent.
“This will allow us to
begin the demolition of the station and also start the project,” Favila said.
“Right now, we’re using
the facilities at 430 Fifth St. solely to as a garage to house the fire engines
and the ambulances. The day-to-day operations and the living quarters for the
operations are located at 415 Fourth St., which is the old courthouse. We’ve
been occupying that one coming up on three years now,” Favila explained to the council.
New Station Sorely Needed
Calexico Mayor Bill Hodge
said recently his understanding is that problems with “fungus” and “bad
plumbing” were among the reasons the fire crews were forced out of the
Fire Capt. Eduardo “Lalo”
Rivera, who was in charge at the department last week while Favila was out,
said the problems described by Hodge were just some of the issues. He said hazardous
building materials and electrical wiring problems, weather damage and time were
also some of the factors that led the department to move out around
“They were unhealthy
living conditions,” Rivera said during an interview Jan. 2.
Rivera said the
department will continue to operate and live out of the former courthouse and also
move the garage area for the fleet to the courthouse once demolition starts.
He said even the garage
at the Fifth Street location is beginning to become unusable with cracks in the
concrete and asphalt where the vehicles are parked. Rivera explained the department
has added to the fleet over the years and that “these are some heavy rigs.”
Rivera added plans for a
new fire station date back at least a decade.
Project Fully Funded
Dale said during an
additional interview Jan. 2 that the project has been fully funded since 2013
or 2014, when the city’s Measure H Committee agreed to fund the new station.
Measure H is a 2010 voter-approved half-cent sales tax that is monitored
through an oversight committee set up by the tax measure.
In 2013-14, the committee
took out $10 million worth of bonds and set aside $6 million for the fire
station, Dale said. The city manager noted he is confident the funding is
enough to cover what he said is a $7 million price tag on the fire station
“I doubt if it’s going to
come in that high,” Dale said Dec. 20.
He added that if it does,
the city has $1 million to $1.5 million in state Community Development Block
Grant Program funding available for the balance.
When asked about all the
delays and gaps in time between getting the project funded and getting to this
point, Dale said he honestly does not know how to account for the timing. He
has been city manager since December 2017.
Trying to Explain Delays
Dale acknowledged that
like the fire station several major city projects have inexplicably languished
for years after being mostly designed, approved and funded. Dale said the
council and city staff have spent the last year or so moving forward on major infrastructure
Other examples are the
Cesar Chavez Boulevard-widening project and other major roads projects.
Although neither Dale,
members of the current council, nor those fire officials contacted for this
story, would or could say why it has taken so long to move the project forward,
a former council member who asked not to be identified said strife at the
highest levels of city hall, especially in the city manager position, delayed a
number of projects for years.
The former council member
said the fire station was worked on to some degree through fired City Manager
Richard Warne, interim manager Nick Fenley, former City Manager Armando Villa
and Dale, which accounts for at least five of the delay years. There were also Planning
and Public Works Department heads that changed in that time, including the firing
of former city Engineer and Public Works Department head Nick Servin, the former
council member said.