Rocklin Fire forced to move headquarters

City to get $40,000 to house Placer County Special Investigations Unit
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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It was supposed to be secret, but an unusual move to raise money to fund a new Rocklin officer has pushed details of a complicated deal with Placer County into the public eye. “You were trying to keep that secret. It won’t be secret,” Rocklin Council member George Magnuson admonished Rocklin Police Chief Ron Lawrence during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Magnuson demanded that a blank lease agreement presented to the council be filled-in with the actual office location of the Placer County Special Investigations Unit. “SIU is not exactly a secret organization,” Magnuson said. “I’m glad we’re working with SIU.” For the last decade the county unit, primarily a drug task force, has handled sensitive and sometimes high-profile drug cases using regional undercover officers working out of an undisclosed office building in Rocklin. The plan calls for the city of Rocklin to become the unit’s new landlord. Council members pressured the city’s top cop to publicly announce the address of the planned move: the Rocklin Fire Administration offices at Fire Station No. 1 on Rocklin Road. “I’ve talked to the Fire Chief and we determined it would be possible for the fire administration, which consists of four people to relocate to a new office space and put the Special Investigations Unit in the administration section of the current fire department,” Lawrence said. The fire station side of the complex would not be moved. In exchange the county will pay $40,000 a year to the city for the office space. Lawrence’s original goal of raising $30,000 to help fund a new officer to join the unit will now be realized. Gov. Jerry Brown dealt the unit a blow at the end of the year by scrapping 37 of the state’s 55 drug task forces, including Placer County’s. However, the county task force was kept alive through grants and other funding provided by the county, Lawrence reported. “That left us with some serious decisions to make, namely the lease on the building that the special investigations unit was housed in. It was being paid for by the state until they abolished their partnership (with the task force),” Lawrence said. The need for the unit became critical following the passage of the state’s new prison realignment plan, which pushes non-violent offenders from state prisons to county jails. The shift has created a need for more county staff to handle the increased jail population. Earlier this month, the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to use state funds to expand the SIU mission to include parole duties. While the plan seems beneficial to the city’s $500,000 budget shortfall this fiscal year, Fire Chief Bill Mikesell said the move could be problematic. “It is, I’ll be honest, a disruption to relocate. We are going to do that,” Mikesell said. “We want to be nimble. We have short amount of time to do it and we found the perfect location.” Mikesell said there will be two moves. The first would be to move himself, two battalion chiefs and an administrative assistant over to the former recreation offices at the Rocklin Events Center on Sunset Boulevard. “We’ll have to do a little bit of clean-up. My staff and I are willing to vacuum floors and straighten up,” Mikesell said. “But it’s only temporary.” The ultimate goal, Mikesell explained, is to move the fire department headquarters to Fire Station No. 2 on Crest Drive at Stanford Ranch Road. “There is room there, but it does take some work,” Mikesell explained. “We’re going to do some cosmetic things on one area and some construction in another area.” The plan maybe beneficial for the department over time. During a council workshop last year Mikesell indicated the long term plan is to close the aging Fire Station No. 1 in favor of a new fire house, possibly on the Sierra College campus. The City Council unanimously approved the Special Investigations Unit’s lease agreement. The agency expects to move in within 45 days.