Though it’s not near Christmas, the Columbia Fire Department’s wish list already includes plans to build three new fire stations, buy several new vehicles and hire more staff.
North-central and eastern Columbia
At tonight’s Columbia City Council meeting, the council will discuss the negotiation and purchase of two sites for future fire stations.
The station site considerations include one to two available acres, access roads, accessibility for fire apparatus, position of the station on the site, availability of vacant land, call volume and response time.
For the new station in north-central Columbia, the preferred land parcel is 1.3 acres located at Blue Ridge Road and the proposed extension of Providence Road, according to a staff report to the City Council sent on Aug. 14. The land is owned by Jack Overton.
For the new station in eastern Columbia, the two preferred sites are 1.8 acres located just to the east of Keene Street on St. Charles Road, owned by Dale and Dorcas Smarr, or 1/4 mile east of Keene Street on East Broadway, owned by Williams Riggs, according to the staff report.
Designs for these future stations will be similar to Fire Station #8, which is 10,500 sq. ft. For every station, there’s a $660,000 ongoing cost.
Funds have been appropriated in the city’s Capital Improvement Program to purchase the sites.
The next step in the process of obtaining the land is to get appraisals, which requires Council authorization, and then negotiation with the property owners.
Stadium and Interstate 70 fire station
Fire Chief William Markgraf said the greatest need for a fire station was near the intersection of Stadium and I-70 to take 300 to 325 calls per year away from other stations. The land in that area is either expensive or unavailable. Proposed interchange construction in that area also adds uncertainty to the best location for a new station.
“There isn’t a decent site,” Markgraf said.
The Cosmopolitan Park land was also considered for a fire station, but since federal money was used to help fund the purchase, any land taken away from the park must be replaced contiguously, keeping the same acreage.
Markgraf told the council during the city manager’s budget presentation that he wanted to hire additional staff for proposed fire stations, as well as wanting more staff for the existing stations. He also said there was a serious need for a vehicle to address attacks by weapons of mass destruction, which would cost an estimated $350,000. Markgraf told the council the department will continue to offer the same service level, whether they get the new machines or not.
“We’re going to make do with what we got,” Markgraf said.
He also told the council he was continuing his effort to set up a rotation for the fire department’s vehicles, so that each vehicle would serve for eight years on the front line, four years in reserve and then be sold. This plan would give the department a good turn-over rate and reduce service costs, he said.
The fire department recently sold their 1990 ladder truck to Fulton and bought a new vehicle for Station #2. This engine will start service in September.
The council will also decide whether to accept a grant for the purchase of an vehicle used to fight aircraft fires. The fire department has received a grant for 90 percent of the total cost, up to $675,000, from the Federal Aviation Administration to be put toward the purchase of this vehicle, according to a staff report to the council sent Aug. 11. Columbia would pay $75,000 or 10 percent of the cost for the vehicle, possibly from the airport improvement funds. The current airport equipment from 1991 is older than its scheduled useful life. Bids will be opened Wednesday.