The City of Lake Elsinore is continuing to lean on the county to help share the cost of opening its new -- and yet unused -- Rosetta Canyon Fire Station, but it will take a few more months before local residents know whether they will be seeing crews at the facility come 2013.
During Tuesday night’s Lake Elsinore City Council meeting, in a 4-1 vote council members approved the five-year Capital Improvement Program that begins July 1, but they stopped short of making a spending commitment of more than $1 million on equipment for the Rosetta Canyon Fire Station until they get a firm cost-sharing agreement from the county.
Councilman Peter Weber, who was the dissenting vote, was adamant the city spend money now to get Rosetta Canyon open. But council members Bob Magee and Melissa Melendez said they could not justify spending money until the county steps up.
Mayor Brian Tisdale said he has been working closely with Supervisor Bob Buster on cost sharing for the station and has set 2013 as the target date to open the facility.
“The supervisor is committed to bringing this forward,” he said. The mayor expects to have firm details from the county no later than September.
But Melendez was skeptical.
“We want that guarantee,” she said, noting that the city can put aside the station funding and trigger spending when the county comes on board.
Although city staff recommended spending the money now, interim City Manager Tom Evans acknowledged funding could be tucked away pending word from the county.
Among the fire equipment proposed for purchase is a new $950,000 “quintuple combination pumper” or “quint,” which serves the dual purpose of an engine and a ladder truck. Currently, when Cal Fire crews in Lake Elsinore require a ladder truck, they dispatch the nearest out of Temecula.
The quint requires a four-person crew, which is an ongoing annual cost estimated at $1.5 million above initial equipment costs.
Other spending items for the station included more than $200,000 in furnishings.
Lake Elsinore contracts for fire services through the county, which in turn contracts through Cal Fire. Although the Rosetta Canyon station would primarily service Lake Elsinore, Cal Fire would dispatch station crews to nearby cities and unincorporated areas when necessary, a practice that serves to ensure public safety and minimal response times countywide.
Along with Buster, Tisdale has also been in discussion with Cal Fire officials regarding the Rosetta Canyon station.
In making their argument for county financial support, Lake Elsinore officials have often referenced nearby Canyon Lake. In April, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved a $257,000 subsidy to assist that city with its fire services contracted through Cal Fire.
Canyon Lake with its population of 11,000 residents had been struggling to cover its public safety expenditures. In June 2010, the city's voters rejected a proposed per parcel tax to fund its then-current levels of law enforcement and fire protection services.
A cost-sharing plan proposed for Canyon Lake in February was tabled when Supervisors John Benoit and Jeff Stone questioned the need to commit county funds to cover the small city’s needs. But Canyon Lake officials pointed out that a portion of the calls handled by the city’s lone fire station originate in unincorporated communities under county jurisdiction – an argument that Lake Elsinore and other cities can make.