(Victor Valley) – The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors recently approved the sale of surplus county land near Spring Valley Lake to the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District to be used for a new fire station to replace the “temporary” station that has been in service for more than 20 years.
“This is a major step in providing better fire service for the community of Spring Valley Lake and nearby areas, including Victor Valley College,” said First District County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt. “I want to thank my fellow Board members for agreeing to my request two years ago that certain federal funds be set aside for construction of desert fire stations. That funding will allow construction of the station to move forward in a timely manner.”
The action today allows County Service Area 64, which serves the unincorporated community of Spring Valley Lake and is administered by the County Special Districts Department, to sell 1.4 acres of land at Huerta and Tamarisk roads for $152,340 to the County Fire Protection District. A new fire station would replace the temporary facility on a parcel leased by the Fire Protection District since 1990 near Victor Valley College.
Construction funding is expected to come from the federal government’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. PILT payments are made to counties under a formula based on population and the amount of federal land within the county. More than 80 percent of the land in San Bernardino County is federal land and generates no property tax revenue. PILT payments are meant to partially compensate jurisdictions for providing services, including fire and law enforcement, on those lands, but the program has rarely been fully funded by Congress.
As part of a federal budget bill approved in 2008, Congress agreed to fully fund the program for five years, which provided San Bernardino County about $1 million per year more than it normally receives. Supervisor Mitzelfelt requested that the additional money be set aside for construction of desert fire stations and the Board agreed.
The PILT program continues to be an inviting target to Congressional budget cutters and Supervisor Mitzelfelt has long been active in defending PILT and explaining its importance to counties with large expanses of federal land. In September, he travelled to Washington, D.C., to participate in an effort funded and organized by the National Association of Counties (NACo) to educate members of Congress about the importance of PILT. Supervisor Mitzelfelt is the county’s delegate to NACo and serves on NACo’s Public Lands Steering Committee.
“Being able to build a new fire station is just one example of how PILT benefits counties with large federal holdings,” said Supervisor Mitzelfelt. “Without this funding, our taxpayers are left to foot the entire bill for providing police, fire and other public services on more than 8 million acres of federal land within our county.”