PUBLIC SAFETY BUILDING AND FIRE STATIONS
I supported the inclusion of the Public Safety Building in the 2021-25 Capital Budget. It serves as a place holder in the CIP, setting a direction for future consideration. Should this move forward through future budget cycles it will no doubt evolve with the final budget, scope, and footprint to be determined. Inclusion in this budget doesn’t mean that construction is preordained, but is part of the normal planning process in the 5 year CIP budgeting cycle. That said, here’s what we do know.
One of the primary challenges in fire station construction or expansion is land acquisition. Fire Station #1 will need to be replaced in the future given the age and limitations of the structure. In addition, the findings of a study performed to assess the current Police facility determined it to be far short of current and future needs. It found the “current facility lacks records space, evidence space, training facilities, has no female locker room or facilities to house animals (K9). "Space needs" study conducted by the City showed the Police have a high need for more space”.
To replace Station #1 at its present location additional land is required as the current station footprint and lot square footage is inadequate. Further, should we move forward with a full Public Safety facility, the land is also needed. The bottom line is that not beginning the acquisition process as the land becomes available is not an option, no matter which direction this takes in future years. I supported initiating that process.
The 2021 CIP budgeted $1,000,000.00 which will be used mainly for land acquisition. Any unused funds will be set aside for future construction needs. In addition, we also provided $850,000.00 for work necessary to extend the life cycle of Station #1. Per the budget, “The rehabilitation of Fire Station #1 is a ten-year life extension of the existing building. The rehabilitation includes a remodel of bathroom and bunk facilities to accommodate male and female firefighters, mechanical upgrades, workout room remodel, and repair of collapsing floor”. This extension of Station #1 useable life will allow time to fully develop plans for the site, whether replacement of the Station alone or construction of a new Public Safety facility.
Should I become Mayor I will continue in the same general direction knowing full well that final decisions on this project will most likely not occur within my 4 year term. The most pressing short term issue will then involve accommodations for the Police facility, which may drive decisions on the Safety Building discussion. We may push construction as a funding priority or try to make investments to allow an extension of the life span of the current facilities to match that of Station #1.
I believe that we should give equal priority to the construction of Fire Stations #2 and #3, also slated for replacement as they too are obsolete. Given the cost of these stations as compared to the Public Safety building as proposed, they are relatively low hanging fruit, more easily achievable within our current borrowing blueprint. If elected, I would also open a discussion on the adequacy of our current borrowing standards given the low-interest rate environment and the long-overdue need to address our obsolete Fire and Police facilities.