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Pubic Safety - New Fire and Police Facility Location
Photos of the empty lot across from Holt Park in Holtville that would be the site of a new fire and police facility if the city can arrange funding. | Corissa Ibarra photo

Holtville Far Short in Funding for New Public-Safety Facility

As the Holtville holds onto about $1.5 million in bond funds to pay for a new downtown public-safety building, increasing costs seem to continuously to put the project out of reach.

The last estimate on the combination fire/police station has reached $9 million due to elevated seismic standards on the construction of public-safety buildings in California, Holtville City Manager Nick Wells said.

“The City Council would very much like to get the project on track. They realize there’s no money for it, but they check on it regularly,” Wells said during a Nov. 14 interview with this newspaper.

Mayor Ginger Ward did not return several calls seeking comment for this story.

Holtville officials are hoping Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, can come to the rescue.

Wells said he spoke with Garcia’s office about four weeks ago to ask for assistance with alternative sources of funding, and that he was told Garcia would help.

In response to a request for comment, Garcia stated in a Nov. 18 email to this newspaper, “As always, my office and I strive to make ourselves accessible to identify and share resources. We were able to help direct the city of Holtville to some potential public-safety grant programs. We offered our continued support and assistance with anything they might need moving forward to pursue funding.”

Donated Land

The development of the public-safety building has a long history that started in 2001, when former Holtville resident Milton Meek donated 1.71 acres of land just north of Holt Park to be used specifically for a new police and fire station.

The site north of Sixth Street between Pine and Holt avenues.

Back in 2007, Wells said the city took out several million dollars in bonds for city projects, including what Holtville Fire Chief Alex Silva said was originally supposed to be a combined police/fire station and community center.

Wells said bond money was used to complete the architectural renderings and final design work on the public-safety building, with $1.5 million set aside for the construction.

With the project ready to go out to bid, the city council at the time held up the process at the 11th hour when a council member got the backing of his fellow council members to stop the process and call for a redesign, Wells said. It was to incorporate environmentally friendly features to the building, such as solar panels, eco-friendly building materials and other green features, Wells added.

Rising Price

Eventually, timing and the new green features put the costs to build the station out of reach. Wells said with a construction boom making building materials more expensive and wildfires also affecting the price of new construction, the price tag on the project ballooned to $3 million, then $3.5 million, even several years ago.

In another complicating factor, Wells explained city officials had to fight to get the state to release the Meek property back to the city. When the state dissolved redevelopment agencies in 2012, the state tied up the donated land. Wells said the city had to make the case that the land was donated and not purchased by state RDA funds.

This year, Wells said, the project became a priority of the council again, and the city got all new building estimates in February that came back at $9 million.

What’s more, Wells said the city began to get its “ducks in a row” to attempt to get state Community Development Block Grant program funding, but with CDBG requests capped at $3 million, Wells said, “It was no longer a realistic goal.

“We knew we had to start looking at other avenues” for funding, Wells said, and that led him to Garcia’s office.

Silva said the project was already downsized several years ago to drop the community center component when construction costs began to rise.

“We knew we had to start looking at other avenues”

Nick Wells

Designed to have three large bay doors for storing the fire department’s vehicles, Silva said the building’s plans include sleeping quarters for fire personnel and separate administrative offices for fire and police staff. The Imperial County Sheriff’s Office handles city police duties under contract.

Silva said the renderings also include a holding room, interrogation room, and changing quarters He said there is also room for a two-man ambulance crew and room for one ambulance.

Silva said Holtville fire usually has three staff members on duty per shift and has three fire engines, two command vehicles and one brush-fire vehicle to store.

This story is featured in the Nov 21, 2019 e-Edition.