Growth is coming to Ripon once again.
And come September, the Ripon Consolidated Fire District will have another tool at its disposal to meet the demand that comes with providing emergency services to an expanding community.
A new fire station.
Thanks to more than $1.8 million in redevelopment funding that was guaranteed before the State of California did away with the agencies (which won’t cover all of the construction), the small independent district has plans to open the doors of its newest, 6,500 square-foot station by the beginning of fall.
Located at the corner of River and North Ripon roads, the building will cater to an expansive area of residential development that is once again picking up in a community that at one time was able to lay down just about any condition that it wanted to those who wanted to build houses within the city limits.
Ripon Fire Chief Dennis Bitters knows that it might take some time before those days come back, if they come back at all, but he also realizes that the district was spot-on when it came to recognizing the section of town that would be the site of future expansion.
“It’s really all about thresholds and triggers and what would require the construction of a station at that particular time,” Bitters said. “If something were to have triggered it, we would have to build it. This particular station is right where it needs to be and it’s the right time for the construction to take place.
“But staffing and construction never come at the same time, and that’s something that we’re already working on.”
When the district sat down and looked at a map in an attempt to figure out which direction was the best gamble when it came to figuring out where Ripon would grow they had two options – south towards Manteca or east towards the undeveloped areas.
They chose east.
A sphere-of-influence swap with Manteca was beneficial to both of those communities, but the district’s dice roll also paid sweeping dividends and provided a blueprint for the future.
Most of Ripon’s large-scale residential developments will be constructed in that area. The placement of a fire station in such a location is a no-brainer – making sure that response times meet the demand is critical and given the district’s unique ambulance service it becomes even more important.
Will those new houses pay for the cost of the service? Not exactly. Like most other property-tax dependent entities, Ripon took somewhat of a bath when reassessments cut down on their operations budget following the housing crash. Even the construction of new homes – and the rebound of the market – will only provide a small portion of what it will take to hire full-time firefighters and paramedics necessary to provide the integral service that has been providing the community what it needs for decades.
The real money comes from large commercial properties and retail outfits that also put money in city coffers through sales tax.
Ripon, which has been operating without three firefighter positions that they had to leave unfilled because of the budget cutbacks, will rely heavily on reserves and volunteers to staff the station once itis completed.
“We’re a few months away, but having those reserves are a big reason why we’re going to be able to staff the station once it opens,” Bitters said. “It’s going to be a big benefit for the City of Ripon and the residents that live in that area.”