A 7-year-old specialized emergency vehicle used hundreds of times a year for emergencies on the Oceano Dunes is getting old, and the Five Cities fire chief says State Parks, not local governments, should pay to replace it.
“State parks should be paying the full freight,” said Five Cities Fire Authority Chief Joel Aranaz, who noted that Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreational Area is state property and not in Five Cities jurisdiction.
The current, aging truck cost $75,000 in 2005. Of that, $50,000 came from a state grant and $25,000 from local funds. Aranaz estimates it would cost $146,000 to replace the vehicle.
He said he has to spend within his budget and doesn’t have the money. He is trying to work out some sort of financing in collaboration with the county fire department, he said, but the vehicle should be on the state’s dime.
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“It’s going to be hard for them (State Parks) to say they don’t have any money,” Aranaz said.
The State Parks Department came under fire in July after $54 million was found in unreported funds. Much of that was in the off-road fund.
The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreational Area is a frequent destination for off-roading, which, while popular, also is the site of hundreds of accidents yearly.
Aranaz said his department took the vehicle onto the dunes 162 times in 2011. Most of those excursions were for medical reasons the bulk of those had to do with off-roading activities.
His chief commitment, Aranaz said, is to public safety, but someone has to pay for the vehicle, and it does its work on state property, not county or city land.
State Parks Dunes Superintendent Andy Zilke did not respond to a request for comment.