Three Columbia fire stations see new sprinkler systems

Thursday, January 19, 2012 | 4:49 p.m. CST; updated 5:47 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 19, 2012

COLUMBIA — Three fire stations in Columbia will receive new sprinkler systems thanks to Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.

Fire Stations Nos. 4, 5 and 6, located at 2300 Oakland Gravel Road, 1400 Ballenger Lane and 3112 Chapel Hill Road respectively, were erected in the '70s and do not have automatic fire suppression sprinkler systems.

“We have either remodeled stations, reconstructed stations or replaced existing stations, and they are all equipped with automatic sprinklers,” Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Steven Sapp said. “This is our way of going back and installing technology because none of these stations are scheduled for remodeling or replacement.”

The cost of the sprinkler retrofits will be covered by the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  The grant program awards money to fire departments nationwide to promote the safety of the department and the public.

Sapp said the program offers three types of grants, each lasting 12 to 18 months. Departments can apply for grants such as Assistance to Firefighters Grants, Fire and Safety Grants, and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants.

The project will cost an estimated $135,000. The federal government will cover 80 percent of the cost, or $108,000. The city will chip in $27,000. 

The grant covers two years worth of installation and maintenance, after which the maintenance costs will be absorbed into the existing maintenance budget.

Although the Columbia City Council voted to accept the awarded funds at Tuesday’s meeting, installation will not begin immediately.

“There’s still a couple of things we need to provide information-wise to the Department of Homeland Security to actually have the awards finalized,” Sapp said. “We would certainly hope to be started with the projects by early to mid-summer and certainly like to finish them up by the end of the year.”

Sapp said he hopes the city is setting an example by installing new fire sprinklers and motivating Columbia residents to consider doing the same.

Columbia is one of 15 Missouri cities to be awarded money for fire station modifications. According to the United States Fire Administration website, thousands of departments from cities in all 50 states applied for funding.

“Congress sets aside a finite amount of funding, but unfortunately it’s not enough for everyone,” Sapp said. “I’m pretty honored that our grant was considered and awarded.”

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Mike Tompkins January 19, 2012 | 6:25 p.m.

This is the definition of wasteful government spending. It is so absurd to put sprinklers in a building who's occupants job is putting out fires. 135,000 would be better spent in Joplin.

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