Fire department asking city to invest in rebuilding aging fire s - KXXV Central Texas News Now

Fire department asking city to invest in rebuilding aging fire stations

(Source: KXXV) (Source: KXXV)

Anticipating growth in the city of Waco, the Waco Fire Department is requesting the city to rebuild two of its fire stations, which were built more than 50 years ago.

Fire Station Six, located in the 2800 block of Bosque Blvd, was built in 1940. The small fire station is one of the busiest in the city.

Captain David Neelley, who has worked there for a year, said usually firefighters go there when they first start.

"It has a lot of sentimental value," Neelley said. "A lot of us have been in fires out of this station. Your first fire may have been out of this station."

However, he said it is important for the building to undergo upgrades. For example, the size of the building does not accommodate newer fire engines so the department had to put in a special order for it to fit at that station.

The Waco Fire Department submitted a proposal to the city to rebuild Fire Station Six in anticipation of future population growth. It requested the city to invest $150,000 for the 2017-2018 fiscal year to buy a property to rebuild Fire Station Six in that same area. It is also requesting for $2,500,000 for construction in a later year.

"The goal is to build a larger station in that area. That gives us the flexibility to add additional fire trucks as the populations grows in that area, which saves the citizens money because we don't have to build an additional station. We can just expand at that current location," Fire Chief Bobby Tatum said.

According to Tatum, that station responds to 42% of the fires in the city, which amounts to 1,500 calls per year. Usually, there is a three-men crew and one fire engine there. 

"At the current time [and] the staffing level, we are providing adequate service but we want to look at the future. As the city of Waco grows, the fire station would not accommodate us adding fire engines," Tatum said.

Tatum also requested $500,000 for 2017-2018 to buy a property for Station Five, which is located on Speight Avenue. In addition, his department requested $2,500,000 to rebuild that station closer to a developing area like the Central Texas Marketplace.

"The idea of moving Station 5, not only rebuilding an older fire station but looking at where our coverage needs would be in the future so we can build a fire station that would have the level of coverage we have to provide," Tatum.

The chief said he hoped to be able to acquire the land for both properties within the next five years.

"Currently, we have good coverage but if we were not looking forward, it would result in increased response times. It would decrease the level of service we provide. If we don't move forward with those initiatives, if we wait too long, we are going to unable to provide the level of service we want to provide to citizens," Tatum said.

He said their current response time is four minutes, a standard, they would like to continue in the future.

According to Assistant City Manager Jack Harper, the city council will hear capital improvement proposals from city departments next month and it will start prioritizing them in May. It is expected to make funding decisions for the 2017-2018 year in August, when it finalizes the budget.

"The city council always takes all requests very seriously, although we do place a high priority on public safety. I would imagine there is a very good possibility, but that decision always rests with the city council. It's based on the amount of dollars being available," Harper said.

Currently, all city departments have requested $102 million in capital improvement projects for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Over the next five years, the amount requested is $582 million.

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