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Tribe Seeking $1.2M Grant to Expand Rancheria Fire Station

NORTH FORK — The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians is applying for a $1.2 million federal grant to construct a 4,050-square-foot emergency services building adjacent to North Fork Fire Station #11.

The new facility, which could be operational by 2022, would provide living barracks for the fire station — and dedicated space for personnel from the Madera County Sheriff’s Office and Sierra Ambulance.

Paul Irwin, the Tribe’s executive housing director, is writing the grant application, which is due next week (Feb. 2).

The North Fork Rancheria Volunteer Fire Station #11

Construction of the Rancheria Fire Station was originally proposed in May 2009 after the County entered into an agreement with the Tribe and the North Fork Community Development Council (CDC) to build a new facility on a 2.6-acre parcel at the Old Mill Site.

Construction of the fire station was partially funded with grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) program as well as by funding from the County.

After the fire station opened in 2013, the County entered into a lease agreement with the Tribe. The lease was structured to run until the close-out of the ICDBG grant, at which time ownership of the property would convert back to the County.

That agreement makes the County responsible for operating and maintaining the fire station.

On November 5, 2019, supervisors approved a five-year extension of the lease agreement to allow the Tribe time to pursue grant opportunities to provide additional fire suppression crews and engines to the North Fork area as well as to fund construction of new living quarters for the station.

In early January, county staff met with the Tribal Council to discuss a funding opportunity available through the 2019/2020 ICDBG program. That grant requires the County to submit a letter of support and commitment to the Tribe assuring it will continue to operate and maintain the building.

According to the most recent staff report to supervisors, the approximate annual costs to operate and maintain the new building would be $34,394 — “which includes utility costs, insurance, property tax, ongoing maintenance and a capital reserve.”

Operating costs would be partially offset by a cost-sharing agreement with Sierra Ambulance.

The grant, if awarded, does not require the County to immediately staff the building when the project is completed (estimated by County staff to be by June 2022).

The existing facility currently operates as a so-called “Paid Call Fire Station.” MCSO staff operating in the area have access to the station and its small office.

If the addition is built, Sierra Ambulance currently has the capacity to station one ambulance during daytime hours at the new facility.

As part of the grant application, county staff is recommending supervisors waive permitting costs as well as environmental review and evaluation fees for the proposed building as an “in-kind match” for the grant. The approximate cost to waive the fees and review is $70,863.

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