Columbia Fire Department expresses need for a 10th fire station
Public safety faced with the obstacle of not having enough money
A growing need for increased public safety is faced with the obstacle of not having enough money.
While Columbia is debating how to cover the cost for 35 additional police officers, the Columbia Fire Department has expressed the need to begin planning for a 10th fire station due to continual city growth.
"As the community grows, the demand grows," said Battalion Chief Brad Fraizer. "If we don't grow with it, then we could see our response times climb up."
The city received a grant this year that covered the cost of hiring four additional firemen, which put all nine fire stations at full staff, with a total of 136 firefighters.
But Fraizer said the response times have been trending upward for the last two-to-three years.
An additional fire station would add about 12 more firefighters.
"It's a definite need," Fraizer said. "We have a response time goal of six minutes and 30 seconds. Right now our actual response time is about seven minutes and 20 seconds, so it's not where we want it to be."
Fraizer said currently, they are able to handle the demand for emergency services. But he said at the rate the city is growing, response times will rise even more if an additional fire station is not added.
Fraizer said the cost to build a fire station is between $1.5 million and $2 million. That doesn't include the cost of the land.
Each firefighter costs roughly $100,000, which makes the annual staffing cost between $900,000 and $1 million.
"It's a pretty big commitment in personnel costs and in capital costs to build a fire station and acquire the land," Fraizer said. "It's definitely not something you want to ignore, because response times and the calls for emergency services are going to continue to grow."
Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp said there has been some discussion and the city is aware of the need.
"We've got some long-range planning, but we're going to have some tough decisions as far as what we're going to do about revenue, because in general, general fund growth has not kept up with inflation and the growth in city population," Trapp said.
It is still up for debate where the money will come from.
"There's been some talk of a public safety tax and to somehow kind of roll these different ideas together," Trapp said.
Fraizer said the need for Fire Station 10 is not yet urgent, but the process of planning for future funding is urgent as the city grows.
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