San Francisco officials appear to be skirting the intent of a recently passed public-safety bond.
Last year, voters approved a bond to fix up neighborhood fire stations to withstand earthquakes, but now a portion of the funds are being diverted to build a temporary fire station on Treasure Island. And not only has the funding source of the $3 million project come into question, so has the fact that The City has not competitively bid out the job.
"This is a clear case of where the departments should have competitively bid these contracts in our professional judgment," Budget Analyst Harvey Rose said last week during a Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee hearing.
That committee is expected to vote on the funding today. Without competitively bidding, there is no way to guarantee The City is getting the best price for the job, which includes a modular structure for barracks and operations and a temporary garage.
Of the total project cost, $1.5 million is coming from the Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond approved by voters in June.
"Our point is that when the voters voted on these bonds, the clear intent was for seismic improvement to neighborhood fire stations, not for this temporary fire station on Treasure Island," Rose said.
The City Controller's and City Attorney's offices have determined it is legal for The City to use the bond funds this way. But the allocation represents another public-safety bond surprise for voters.
Last month, The San Francisco Examiner reported that fire station projects related to a June 2010 public safety bond exceeded their budget by $20 million and the overrun was going to be offset by funds from the 2014 bond.
Julia Dawson, a Department of Public Works deputy director, called the $1.5 million bond grab "a very small amount."
"We don't see it as having a big impact on our ability to continue to improve neighborhood fire stations," Dawson said.
Assistant Deputy Fire Chief Ken Lombardi said that "this is a unique situation" since there is only one fire station on Treasure Island. Last year, firefighters complained of mold at Fire Station 48, a former Navy facility at 849 Avenue D. It was tested in March and determined the station should be abandoned. Department personnel moved into a training facility, where they remain today.
"We have a problem here," Lombardi said of the temporary space. "We have over $2 million of vehicles sitting outside."
The contract work includes the following companies: TEF Design, Sprung Instant Structures, Design Space Modular Buildings, McGuire & Hester and Albert Electric.
The Fire Department, Lombardi said, was planning to bid out the project, but then was told the DPW would take the lead sometime last fall.
"By the time we reached October, we were in an emergency situation for that facility," Dawson said. "Our department made the decision and our director [Mohammed Nuru] made the decision to declare an emergency."
A new fire station is planned as part of the large-scale Treasure Island redevelopment, which would be funded by the developer, but that won't occur for at least another eight years.