More than 30 years went by before a city official had the opportunity to say what Mayor Sedalia Sanders said Thursday morning during the grand opening dedication of Fire Station 3.
“I do hereby proclaim as Fire Station 3 grand opening day in the city of El Centro,” she said to an audience filled with the smiling faces of residents, city and county officials.
During her speech, Sanders thanked past and present city officials as well as staff members for their “vision and tenacity” that resulted in a state of the art facility.
She also underscored the role of Economic Development Director Marcela Piedra in coming up with the funding for the station.
Piedra headed the now gone Redevelopment Agency, and Fire Station 3 is one of the last city projects funded with redevelopment money.
Some $7.5 million in RDA bonds funded the building of the station that serves the north end of the city.
In a few weeks this station will also become the administrative office of the El Centro Fire Department.
A third fire station was a big issue, said City Manager Ruben Duran, because there was no dedicated fire station for the west and north side of the city.
And though he had the fortune of seeing the project completed, Duran said.
“We stand on other folks’ shoulders. These land deeds were done a decade ago.”
“This is the future,” Sanders said while nearing the end of her speech. “All of this is to enhance the lives of the citizens of this city.”
But Sanders and Duran weren’t the only officials speaking during the ceremony.
Interim Fire Chief Timothy Reel was one those who came before the audience.
“Thank you to the citizens of El Centro for giving us this facility,” Reel said. A third fire station was “long overdue,” he said.
Reel then thanked former Fire Chief Christopher Petree, whom Reel said was instrumental in making the concept a reality.
“This is truly — truly a historic occasion for this city,” said Petree, who was invited to speak. “Today our dreams and goals have become a reality.”
Nobody put more blood, sweat and tears in the project that Battalion Chief Richard Burns, said Petree.
Burns, manager of the project, put thousands of hours into it, Petree said, and “finished within the timetable and budget.”
“We can’t say thank you enough,” said Burns during his speech. “Today we start serving the community better,” he said.
The station has been a dream for 40 years, he said, and because the city continues expanding “we already need Station 5.”
“We have to get to your house within five minutes, he said. “I challenge all of you — start planning it.”
Following the ceremony, the audience was encouraged to tour the facility, which as of Thursday was staffed with one engine team that includes a captain, a firefighter and an engineer.
Spacious offices, a fitness room, six dorm rooms, refrigerators for each shift and a generator capable of supplying the facility with seven days of energy if needed are some of the station’s features.
“It’s really Taj Mahal,” said resident Betty Tucker while touring the location. “El Centro has been very blessed.”
“The whole station is awesome,” said Sierra Jaime, who was in the same touring group. “I think the firefighters deserve it.”
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or email@example.com