Gold Bar Fire District 26 is seeking to obtain sole ownership of Fire Station 53, located at 501 Lewis Ave. in Gold Bar.
Accepting the fire district’s offer from November 2012, the City of Gold Bar has agreed to transfer title to the property containing Fire Station 53 to the fire district for a one-time payment of $40,000. The motion was passed by City Council April 23 and is pending a final ruling by the state auditor.
The fire station is situated on a 0.2-acre parcel approximately one block away from City Hall. The transfer of property will encompass the parcel in its entirety, including the land, the two-story fire station, and the smaller auxiliary building.
The fire station exists in a state of joint-ownership between the City of Gold Bar and Fire District 26. The City of Gold Bar has owned the property since before 1941, and for many years, the smaller blue building which lies to the east of the fire station was utilized by the Gold Bar Police Department.
The two-story fire station was partially constructed in 1980 with a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant obtained by Fire District 26. Due to complications in the relationship between the city and the district, they parted ways shortly after construction, deciding to each maintain their own fire station. The city utilized the new building, and the fire district relocated to an area east of town.
Station 53 was not completed until the annexation which occurred in 1991. At this point, the city was annexed into the fire district, and the district returned, taking control of the station and completing the interior construction.
Subsequent improvements have been made exclusively by Fire District 26 and have included new siding, a new roof, carpet, flooring, electrical upgrades, interior and exterior paint, electric door operators and heating system upgrades. All of the station improvements have been achieved through district funds and volunteer labor.
The fire station is currently in need of seismic upgrades and additional maintenance which the City of Gold Bar simply does not have the funds to provide, said Mayor Joe Beavers.
The need to transfer ownership exclusively to Fire District 26 is seen as critical by the fire commissioners, based on the city’s current financial difficulties. District 26 Fire Chief Eric Andrews explained that the concern is that, with the threat of the city going into bankruptcy or disincorporation, the station could potentially be lost.
The building is legally titled to the city, regardless of the fact that it was grant-funded and improved solely by the district, said Andrews.
Andrews stated that, in the event of the city’s disincorporation, there is a chance that the property could be sold to alleviate some of the debt. Even if it is not sold, in a disincorporation, city assets such as the fire station would become property of the school district, at which point the fire district would have to begin negotiations all over again.
“The commissioners feel that securing this building is of high importance, almost an emergency,” said Andrews.
Andrews wants the citizens of the district to continue receiving the best possible service.
“We are trying to assure that their current level of emergency services will not be affected if the city does disincorporate or files for bankruptcy,” he said. “The reality is we need this to be a fire station for a long time and the fire district, which is made up of city residents and district residents, have paid for this building through federal taxes and local taxes.”
Fire District 26 is comprised of the citizens of the City of Gold Bar, along with citizens who occupy a surrounding rural area of approximately 36 square miles.
To Mayor Beavers, the goal of this transfer is long-term security of the fire station.
“It’s a fantastic benefit to the community, and we would like to keep it that way,” said Mayor Beavers.