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Keyes Fire Department mulls bond measure for new station
Keyes Fire Department
The Keyes Fire Station dates back to the early 1960s and no longer can accommodate the needs of the community, district officials say.

Keyes Fire Protection District officials are considering the placement of a $7 million bond measure on the Nov. 5, 2024 ballot to build a new and modern fire station.

To gauge if there is enough support for an assessment on Keyes property tax rolls, the district is seeking community comments or questions on the district website,

Keyes Fire Chief Royjindar Singh said the board will make a final decision to proceed or not at its June 20 meeting.

A two-thirds majority voter approval would be required for passage. If approved, property owners would see an estimated assessment at a rate of $29 per $100,000 of assessed value per year. District officials say the average property owner would pay about $120 extra per year to pay off the bond.

Chief Singh said the “Emergency Response, Fire Protection and Facilities Improvement Bond” measure is needed because the current Keyes Fire Station was built in the early 1960s and is inadequate to serve the growing and modern public safety needs of the Keyes area. While the station may look nice, Singh said it is antiquated and undersized.

“In one of our engine bays you can see literally the back bumper has to touch the back wall so the front door can close – that’s how tight it is,” Singh noted.

The other engine, if not weighted down with 1,000 gallons of water in its tank, cannot be rolled into the station because it’s too tall.

“There is no space for the storage or cleaning of personal protection gear (fire turnouts, boots, gloves, etc.) necessary to keep our firefighters safe,” according to the district website. 

The station was built with no sleeping quarters since in those days a traditional volunteer fire department had firefighters respond to the station when a call for service came in. Now Keyes has 20 firefighters in its department who work shifts of 12, 24, or 48 hours and who need sleeping quarters. Currently overnight firefighters sleep in a makeshift dorm created from building a wall in the dayroom, which is shared between males and females.

“While we are a volunteer department, our station is staffed full-time like a paid department.”

The station’s plumbing system is outdated and the electrical system cannot be modified for modern equipment, such as station lighting, power outlets, computers and appliances.

Another drawback is that the station does not meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.

Officials say that due to the station design and materials, as well as the condition of the existing systems, a simple modernization or retrofit isn’t feasible.

Singh said the district has hired a consultant to guide through the bond measure process. A preliminary station design has been drawn up to come up with an estimated cost of between $5.9 million to $6.4 million.

Singh said grants would be hard to snag and not cover all the costs.

“Based on what our revenues are it would not be financially responsible to take that large of a loan out and try to pay that and still try to meet the operational needs,” said Singh.

If a bond measure is passed, the district would build the new station in a large vacant parcel adjacent to the old station.

Holding a bond election during a presidential election improves the odds for passage because of the greater number of voters, said Singh.

“We are kind of on a compressed timeline so we are doing some outreach,” said Singh, “but she kind of recommended to us that we put some feelers out there, kind of see what questions are coming up so those questions we can address and maybe put those concerns in the ballot measure.”

The chief remains hopeful that the community will pass the measure, noting how residents are generally supportive of the fire department.

“We have a lot of positive community relations, we get positive feedback. Based on that I think we have a pretty good chance.”

Assessed value is determined by the Stanislaus County Assessor and is often much closer to the original purchase price of the home than to the current market value. 

The cost of bond measures is based on the assessed value of properties which is typically much lower than the market value, especially if purchased long ago at a much lower price than it could be purchased for today.

The measure would be written in such a way that funds would:

•  Be controlled locally and shielded from any potential state grabs;

• Would set up an independent citizens’ oversight and annual audits;

• Never be used for administrative salaries or pensions.

Keyes Fire Protection District covers 42 square miles, stretching from Pioneer Road to Bystrum Road on the west side, and from Esmar Road to the north and south to the Turlock city limits.