Morro Bay Fire Department will begin accepting bids for new station soon

The Morro Bay Fire Department will soon begin accepting construction bids to finish its new fire station, thanks to $1.6 million in federal stimulus money.

“This is a great shot in the arm for the community — the city, the residents,” said City Manager Andrea Lueker. “We’re pretty pleased.”

The money will fund more than half of the remaining costs to build administrative and living quarters at the Harbor Street station.

The cost of the project was originally estimated at $3 million but has since been reduced to about $2.3 million, Lueker said.

The city will still need to borrow $900,000 to $1.4 million in order to complete the project; the city is finalizing a loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If the city had not received the grant money, it would have increased the amount borrowed.

Construction of the station began in November 2007 with a 4,935-square-foot truck and equipment bay.

Plans for administrative and living quarters are nearly complete, and the city should have a building permit within 30 days, Lueker said.

Fire Chief Mike Pond said the federal stimulus program that issued grants received more than 9,000 applications seeking their share of the approximately $210 million in stimulus money.

“When you figure a station costs anywhere from $2 million to $6 million, that’s not going to fund a lot of stations,” he said. “We were very fortunate to get this.”

Pond said the city’s case was strengthened because of the significant damage the station suffered in the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake.

And in early 2006, strong winter storms further damaged portions of the roof, causing leaking ceilings and mold inside the station.

“All of that made a good case for a project that needed to be funded,” Pond said.

The federal stimulus money is designed to create or save jobs in recession-hit areas and to improve emergency crews’ response times by building, renovating or modifying fire stations, according to the Web site of the Office of the Governor.

Among the top recipients of such construction grant money were the county of Los Angeles and the city of Santa Maria, which received $3.6 million and $2 million, respectively.

The station is expected to be completed in December 2010.