“As a life-long resident of North Fork, I can’t begin to explain how near and dear this project is to me,” said District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler, whose supervisorial area includes North Fork. “Knowing first-hand the deplorable conditions the volunteers were forced to work with, this new facility has been a top priority for me. With the help of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the North Fork CDC, we are finally able to give them a new and improved station.”
The North Fork Volunteer Fire Station project was made possible through an innovative, three-party agreement between the County, Tribe and CDC that solidified the construction and relocation of the 3,200 square-foot facility on a 2.6-acre parcel at the old North Fork Mill Site. The nearly $900,000 station will have two drive-through bays, accommodate three fire apparatus and includes a bathroom, and reception and office area. Lasater Construction Co. Inc of Encinitas, CA, is expected to complete construction of the facility by December 2012.
“This fire station project is testimony to the tireless resolve of our County, the Tribe and CDC to replace an inadequate station built back in the 1970s,” said District 3 Supervisor and 2012 Chairman Ronn Dominici. “The agreement that made this project possible was innovative, novel and a great example of how local governments, tribal governments and community organizations can work together to address a community’s needs.”
The fire station agreement also benefited the North Fork Rancheria, who contributed $496,000 from an Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) to the project, and obtained land to build much-needed senior and social services facilities for tribal members.
Ms. Elaine Bethel-Fink, Tribal Chairperson of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, stressed the collaborative, constructive nature of the agreement, saying “Today is a great day as we celebrate the culmination of many years of hard work by our Tribe and local partners working together to address the needs of our town and the foothills. This new facility will benefit everyone – tribal citizens as well as neighbors; tribal properties as well as community structures.”
According to Fink, once built, the fire station will join a long list of construction and renovation projects by the Tribe within the community including housing, office space, community meeting areas, and down the road, the proposed casino resort near Madera.
“This agreement is a good example of a modern, sovereign American Indian government working to address the economic, social, and environmental needs of our people and surrounding communities simultaneously,” added Fink.
For the town of North Fork, the project represents both an important step in addressing the fire-safety needs of a fire-prone mountain community and in the redevelopment of the economy of North Fork after the closure of its logging mill back in 1994.
“The North Fork Community Development Council is so pleased that the new fire station is now being built at the old Mill Site,” said Dan Rosenberg, president of the North Fork CDC, which donated land for both the fire station and Tribal social services facilities. “For nearly two decades, the CDC has been working on cleaning up the site and improving the infrastructure to make it suitable for redevelopment. The fire station will be the first new facility built at the Mill Site in the past 40 years.”
The CDC and its local partners have been working since the closure of the Mill to attract jobs and business back to the site and community. Their work included remediation efforts at the Mill Site such as removal of certain buildings, underground fuel tanks and soil cleanup. Total cost of the clean up reached more than $2 million and was paid by grants and loans from various governmental agencies.
“For those of us who have worked for years to clean up the site, put infrastructure underground and keep the organization functioning, it is thrilling to be on the verge of building something new at the site,” Rosenberg said.