A community group is launching a fund-raising drive to buy the vacant fire station in central Graton to build a park after fire district directors rejected their lease-purchase offer for the building.

"We felt we made a good offer to them," said HolLynn D'Lil, organizer of the Graton Green Group. "We are disappointed they will not work with us more to make sure that this land that has been in the public good will stay in the public good."

The group has raised $73,800 in pledges, with a goal to raise $350,000, she said.

The Graton Fire Protection District moved into a spacious new station on Gravenstein Highway last summer, built at a cost of $3.5 million.

The old station in central Graton, which had been used since the all-volunteer district was formed in 1951, and its half-acre site have been put on the market for $429,000.

D'Lil's group offered to make a deposit and then monthly payments in a lease-purchase bid, with a total price of $350,000.

The district board likes the idea of a park, but doesn't think it is appropriate for the district to carry a loan. The board rejected the offer last week, said Deputy Chief Bill Bullard.

Board members "personally believe, as well as the county counsel's opinion, that being a lender is not within the core services of the district," he said.

Bullard also said he didn't know if the board would give the group a discount.

"I think the board would take into consideration if the ultimate use would be a park, that would have more value than industrial or a business location," Bullard said. "But a $90,000 span is probably too great. But what is that magical number, what is the consideration? Without having offers in hand, it is hard to say."

Bullard also questioned how much support the group has in a district of 27 square miles that serves 7,000 residents. It is supported by property taxes, a $600,000 annual budget and an annual $200,000 mortgage on the new station.

You can reach Staff Writer

Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.