This month, the voters of the Scotts Valley Fire District will be asked whether to invest $22.2 million into a new fire station and multipurpose administration/disaster support building to improve community safety. The District currently operates out of two fire stations: the 22-year-old Glenwood Drive station and the 60-year-old Erba Lane station.
The Measure W levy would replace the aging Erba Lane station with a new facility on La Madrona Drive across from the Hilton Hotel. The annual cost of the bond to homeowners will not exceed $27.50 per $100,000 of assessed value.
We recognize this is a large investment, but the 2020 CZU Lightening Complex, this past winter’s atmospheric rivers, and condition of the structure have heightened the need to ensure the District residents are adequately protected in the years to come.
There is a lot to know about Measure W, and I hope this article will give the voters enough factual information to make an informed decision.
Planning for a new fire station began over 20 years ago with the vision of a northern station on Glenwood Drive and a southern station located closer to Highway 17 near Mt Hermon Road. Strategically, these two locations provide the best access and coverage to the entire District, which runs from Pasatiempo to the south and as far north as Glenwood/Laurel neighborhoods.
In 2002, the Fire District sold the old fire station on Sims Road, built the Glenwood Fire Station, and purchased the La Madrona lot. The new Glenwood station improved response times to the north. In 2006, the Fire District asked voters for a $8 million levy to fund a new station on the La Madrona lot. The levy failed by 72 votes. Unfortunately, construction costs increased dramatically—nearly tripling in 17 years.
According to two separate studies performed in 2018 and 2022, the current Erba Lane Fire Station—now 60 years old—has reached the end of its useful life, is seismically unsafe, not built to modern building code, and could collapse on the firefighters during an earthquake. The building is failing. This past winter, the walls leaked water into the Battalion Chief’s office.
Why not just remodel the current station? First, the 2018 study determined the Station only accommodated 2/3 of the space needed for firefighters and administration, and the lot would not accommodate this increase. But more importantly, the current station is not strategically located for quick response times.
Fire station location is critical to emergency response. For each minute that passes, a fire doubles in size and a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest decreases by 10%. Simply stated: the quicker the response time the better outcome.
The Fire District’s response time goal is 5 minutes to urban areas and 12 minutes to rural areas. The current response time from the Erba station to the southern urban area is 7-8 minutes. The new La Madrona station will be closer to the Fire District’s busiest area and will improve response times by 2-3 minutes. It also maintains a quick response to the northern area of the district because of its proximity to Highway 17.
In a recent letter to the editor, a resident inquired about the Branciforte Fire District merger and its impact on Measure W. Branciforte residents are not part of the Measure W vote because the Scotts Valley Fire District has not yet officially annexed the Branciforte area. When that occurs later this year, all Branciforte District assets and liabilities will be transferred to the Scotts Valley Fire District.
If Measure W passes, the Branciforte residents will not pay for the bond because they were not part of the vote when it passed. However, Branciforte residents currently pay a parcel tax that supports their fire station and fire apparatus. This parcel tax, known as Measure T, levies approximately $175 per parcel and will transfer to the Scotts Valley Fire District when the annexation is finalized. These funds must be used for the ongoing maintenance of the Branciforte station which will no longer be staffed but house response vehicles, and a community room.
In summary, safety is a community-wide responsibility. Measure W is a long-overdue investment in safety for Scotts Valley. If you have a specific question, please contact the Fire District. We want our residents to be fully informed on this voting issue.