Local law enforcement’s much anticipated mobile command post finally has an estimated date of arrival.
The vehicle, resembling a mobile home, can be used as a communications hub in emergencies such as earthquakes and wildfires, and officials say the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station — which serves La Cañada Flintridge residents, among others — will receive it around May 2020.
“It’ll be really useful for us,” said LCF Mayor Leonard Pieroni, adding that the unit has been in the works for about four years. He said it would be great to use during or after fires, floods, earthquakes or other disasters, natural or man-made. “The new one will be drivable and easy to relocate if you need to move it. It’s definitely useful for that sort of situation where you have to block off a larger area and to use for planning.”
The command post’s total cost is $360,000, $120,000 of which was raised by the city of LCF, with the remaining funds coming from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Support Group, a nonprofit volunteer organization.
“We’re thrilled,” said Linda Taix-Paccone, president of the support group from 2015-18, who remains on the board and said the group raised money for the command post during her tenure. “It’s not like you just buy a big rig and trick it out. It’s going to be built from scratch. We were hoping it would come a lot sooner, but so far there’s been no fires, no floods and no earthquakes. Keep your fingers crossed we won’t be needing it” anytime soon.
The purchase of the command post was approved at a county Board of Supervisors meeting on April 9.
Under the subject “Monetary Donation for a Mobile Command Post Vehicle,” the city and the support group each gave $120,000 and the supervisors authorized the sheriff to accept the money to acquire the command post.
Additionally, letters of appreciation were to be sent to LCF and the support group. Supervisors also authorized a director of internal services to act as the county’s agent to purchase the mobile command post, with funding from donations and the LCF contribution included in the Sheriff’s Department’s budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Gina Ender, a special assistant to Supervisor Kathryn Barger, said the Sheriff’s department had opened up a trust account and was planning to transfer the funding before it goes out to bid.
“Once the bid process is closed and the contract is awarded, the actual bid is 300 days, according to the company who built three other department command posts,” Ender said in an email. “We hope to have the new command post completed by May 2020 or sooner.”
The command post will be similar to ones in Santa Clarita and the sheriff’s Operation Safe Streets, officials have said.
Santa Clarita station Sgt. Dan Dantice called the unit a “vital piece of equipment” that can be used for planning and reacting to large-scale incidents with a large law enforcement presence.
“The thing we use it a lot for is the fires,” Dantice said. “We try to position it near a fire command post.” Some of the amenities for the Santa Clarita unit include air conditioning, a mobile digital computer, large white boards and an internet connection for news feeds.
Dantice, who believes his station has had the command post for about four years, said a special license isn’t needed to operate it but multiple deputies have been trained how to drive it.
“It’s got a swing in back,” Dantice said. “When you make a sharp turn, you can wipe everything out. We don’t want to wreck it. We make sure we have deputies in different shifts who know how to drive it.”
In a recent interview, Crescenta Valley Lt. Mark Slater said his station’s command post vehicle is about 11 years old and the department has outgrown it.
“It’s a trailer converted into a command post,” Slater said. “It had a sofa bed. It wasn’t really designed to be a command post and required someone to tow it. Not everyone has towing experience. Then, other stations went to a motor home-type command post.”
The push for a new mobile command post began a couple of years ago, Slater said. The Crescenta Valley support group, the city of LCF and Barger’s office were the main groups behind the discussion and fundraising but their effort had stalled, he said. Former Crescenta Valley Capt. Christopher Blasnek had asked station employees to bring the effort back around April 2018 and Slater said he had worked on the effort to get everything ready for the approval process.
“It got set back when we had a change of sheriff in December, almost like a start-over process, because we had new people in executive roles,” Slater said; current Sheriff Alex Villanueva was elected in November, defeating incumbent Jim McDonnell, and took over in December. “Once we got the department’s blessing, we were able to get on the [county supervisors’] agenda to accept donations from the city and support group.”
The last time the station’s mobile command post was used was around November and December, when heavy rains brought the potential of mudflows and debris in Kagel and Lopez canyons.
“We had our trailer out at Hansen Dam and it was a unified command,” Slater said. “It was kind of a joke, because here are other departments with their nice mobile command posts and we have a trailer. You could tell we were a little behind the times and need to update our equipment.”
Todd Deeds, who became Crescenta Valley’s captain on May 26, said members of the station and its search-and-rescue team were looking forward to the unit.
“It will be a huge benefit to the station and the community,” Deeds said on Friday.