Public Safety Building

Letter to Our Members

KPOA Members, Use Your Voice!

The General Manager for the Kensington Fire District is recommending approval of plans to evict the police department from the Public Safety Building (PSB) so that the fire department can occupy the entire building  once the seismic upgrade is completed.  This comes after years of expensive redesigns of floor plans, the last of which reduced the police department space by 200 sq. ft. making it difficult to operate, according to Chief Schuld.

This is a momentous action by one of our two governing boards that drastically affects the other board’s purview, without mutual agreement between them on how all public safety services will be housed.  Your KPOA board of directors urges each KPOA member to oppose this recommendation until there is a  comprehensive plan for housing both police and fire with a viable financial plan to support the proposal.

Members, please consider the following suggested questions or comments to address to the Fire Board at its Zoom meeting this Wednesday April 14th 7 pm or in writing.  Background information follows after the questions.

Public comments email address:  public.comment@kensingtonfire.org 

April 14th Meeting Agenda:  https://www.kensingtonfire.org/2021-04-14-board-meeting

General Manager Hansell’s Recommendation for the PSB: https://www.kensingtonfire.org/files/4af6d01e3/20210414_04c+PSB+Recommendation.pdf

  1. Is there any legal requirement to make internal design changes to the PSB for office and living space?
  1. Police Chief Schuld agrees that with only an additional 200 sq ft the police can be housed in the seismic retrofitted PSB.  The Fire Dept should be community minded and give it to the police.
  1. Why does the Fire Chief keep demanding non-mandatory space increases for the fire department that force the police out of the building?  This forces the citizenry to pay for a separate police station.  It is unnecessary.
  1. Will the Fire Board share its much larger general fund allocation with the Police District to ensure that new costs for office space are funded?
  1. Under the current proposal will the upgraded PSB survive a severe earthquake for continued functionality?
  1. Why not unify the two districts for more efficient coordination of public services and use of public funds?

Background to Q 1:  There is no requirement to make design changes in the office and living space in this building.  The structural work for seismic strengthening isn’t even required but clearly desirable for the safety of personnel and continued operations.

Background to Qs 2-3:  The proposal to force the police out of the publicly owned building into either lease space or an expensive police station construction will transfer thousands of taxpayer dollars to private owners, reducing resources for the Police District and likely result in increased property assessments to pay for up to $3 million for tenant improvements and $96,000 in annual lease payments.  Link to report on costs:  https://www.kensingtonfire.org/files/5d2a7b34b/Mar+11%2C+2021+KPPCSD+Needs+Assessment.pdf

Police Chief Schuld stated that the police department could operate out of the PSB with the current amount of space, however a proposed elevator will reduce the space by 200 sq ft.  Did the Fire Board apply to the County for a hardship waiver request to eliminate the elevator which is allowed under the code?  We think it is possible the county will cooperate, given the physical fitness requirements of both departments.

Non-mandatory or unjustified requirements are driving recapture of over 1,000 sq. ft of space in PSB for the Fire Department.  Fire Chief Pigoni has requested an additional bedroom for additional staffing without justification on the need nor how this will benefit Kensington residents.  Other office space needs such as report writing are nice to have but not a requirement and can be accommodated in other ways.  The request for a large meeting room to accommodate an Emergency Operation Center in Kensington does not make sense as El Cerrito is the location where the Chief and command staff are located; a disaster is more likely to occur in Kensington where communications could be lost.  We want to see our emergency personnel out in the field during an emergency, not sitting around a table in an office.

Expense of relocating the police can be avoided simply by allocating an additional 200 square feet to them over the inadequate space proposed by the Fire Board.  The police chief has stated he could make that work.  The Fire Board says no, we want it all.  We think the fire department could accommodate that small increase and still be fully functional and still be able to recruit qualified personnel.  The police department is willing to compromise, the Fire Board is not.

Background to Q 4:  Why can’t both districts develop a financially sound public safety building plan that is acceptable to the community before moving forward with the upgrade?  Will the Fire Board share its larger general fund allocation with the Police District to ensure that new costs for office space are funded?

Background to Q 5:  There are still questions about the impact of a major quake that strikes along The Arlington, it is assumed an upgraded Public Safety Building will not completely collapse but can it survive for continued functionality?

Background to Q 6:  We ask the Boards and the public whether it is time to consider unification of the two districts so that decisions affecting the community are evaluated by a single board with unified resources and concern for both fire and police and with financial decisions on the taxpayers in Kensington decided as one.

We understand this is a complicated issue requiring understanding of both Fire and Police functions, however do not be shy to express your concern about the significant expansion of Fire dept space and loss of Police space resulting in significant expense to the community.  Please speak up at the Fire Board meeting this Wednesday or send comments to public.comment@kensingtonfire.org.  The Public Safety Building belongs to you.

Sincerely,  KPOA Board of Directors 

KPOA

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