Contra Costa County supervisors agreed to assessments on commercial properties and new housing construction to help provide money for the cash-strapped East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (Photo by Art Ray, courtesy of East Contra Costa Fire Protection District/Twitter)

In a move to help a cash-strapped fire district cope with protecting a fast-growing area, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved updated facility fees to help the district pay for new future facilities.

Upon designating the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District as an “overextended service area,” the supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the fees.

The facility fees will range from $1,292.13 per new single-family home to $916.99 per dwelling unit in new apartment or condominium buildings, $1,167.08 per 1,000 gross square feet of office space, and $875.31 per 1,000 gross square feet of commercial space.

The fees are to be paid by developers. ECCFPD Chief Brian Helmick said he acknowledged some developers, notably Concord-based Discovery Builders, have raised concerns with these fees.

“We do believe our methodology is reasonable,” Helmick told the supervisors. “We’ll have to agree to disagree.”

The fire district has had significant funding problems in recent years, as stable funding sources have not kept up with population growth and the increasing urbanization of its 249-square-mile East County district.

The district covers the cities of Brentwood and Oakley, and unincorporated areas including Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Knightsen, Byron and Morgan Territory.

Such impact fees have not been updated for years, a county staff report said — in come cases, since 1987, long before the current East County fire district was formed with the consolidation of several smaller districts.

“We’re well underfunded, and it’s something we have to address,” said Helmick, adding that his district will continue to push for a districtwide Community Facilities District that would assess residents for ongoing fire protection costs. Such taxing districts generally require two-thirds voter approval.

County Supervisor Diane Burgis, whose district the ECCFPD protects, praised Helmick and that fire district’s board of directors for their work to improve all aspects of that department’s operations despite the money problems.

“It’s not a management issue, it’s a revenue issue,” Burgis said.