After a great deal of study on December 8, 2011, the Board of Directors of the Moraga-Orinda Fire District voted to purchase the building located at 1150 Moraga Way to be used as the administrative offices for the Fire District. The initial intent was to wait until Station 43, our first priority, was replaced (Station 43 is currently in the design phase) and Station 41, our second priority, was renovated prior to addressing administrative office inadequacies. But an opportunity to re-purpose the current administrative facility in Moraga and the availability of an adjacent office building prompted the Board to take advantage of a downturn in real estate and construction costs.
This decision was made after numerous public discussions on the options available to address the District office needs. The current administrative facilities are divided between two locations and do not meet access requirements for the disabled. Having the offices in two locations decreases efficiencies due to the additional staff needed for both offices.
While evaluating the Station 41 renovation, it was determined that the current on site administration facility could be re-purposed and reduce the cost of the renovation by $500,000. The current administrative space at Station 41 could also be used as temporary quarters during construction for additional savings. Without this approach, administrative office space for the employees assigned to the Moraga office and the training rooms would have to be relocated with no District facilities available. It was determined addressing administrative office needs prior to completing the station renovation will save the District money.
Over the past year the Board thoroughly reviewed options to address the administrative office needs and determined that purchasing 1150 Moraga Way would be in the best interest of the District, both in the short and long-term.
The District will require approximately half of the space available in the building. The facility will be used for administrative offices for District staff and will include a multi-use room both for training and community and District Board meetings. This room will also be available to other public agencies in need of meeting facilities. Our current administrative facilities are not ADA compliant and this plan will correct that issue. The efficiencies of a centralized staff will reduce personnel and equipment costs.
In deciding on 1150 Moraga Way, as it is more space than we need, we studied the market and alternative users for the remaining space and are confident of finding tenants. First choice is a public agency and that option is being pursued. We are also working with the commercial brokerage community.
The financial analysis has been exhaustive and thoroughly examined by community members, consultants, staff and the Board. In summary:
- Consolidating administrative functions and training facilities will save $120,000 per year.
- The cost of construction of Station 41 will be reduced by $500,000.
- A tenant will generate $70-$80,000+ per year with escalators.
- The annual payment will be $145,000 and paid off in 20 years or less.
- Paying rent has no end, builds no equity and will increase.
- The net annual benefit totals $200,000 - less the lease/purchase payment results in an increase in revenue of $55,000 ANNUALLY. And we own the building.
When the District was formed two specific funds were established:
- The General Fund is financed by property tax and user fees. This fund pays for maintenance and operations of the district – primarily personnel costs, now 90% of the budget. Currently we contribute $3,000,000 toward unfunded liability out of a total General Fund of $18,205,000. We are working with our employees, who have not had a salary increase in over 4 years, on new ways to manage these costs. We must meet our salary and pension obligations from this fund.
- The Capital Fund was established to pay for all capital expense, i.e. fire stations, equipment (primarily fire engines) and office space. This fund derives its revenue from the fire flow tax. The fire flow tax was not established for or ever meant to be used for operational expense, such as pension obligations. With the completion of the facilities, I hope to see funds become available to contribute to other community infrastructure needs.
Be assured that staff and the Board have been working diligently to provide the highest level of emergency medical and fire service as expected by the community in the most cost effective and efficient manner. For over a year we have continued to study the state of the economy, our financial obligations, budget, costs, alternatives, and impacts of the avenues available to us to meet our community’s needs. There have been public hearings and public input. We will continue to do what we feel is in the best interest of the community.
I have been serving on the District Board for 14 years and I promise we have studied and discussed this as much as anything we have ever done. We take this charge seriously and believe that given a thorough study of ALL the data, we made the correct choice in purchasing the building. Please note, these thoughts are mine and I cannot speak for the Board.
President, Board of Directors
Moraga Orinda Fire District