A consultant who reviewed Garden City’s fire service facilities recommends the city build a third fire station on the east side because it would provide better fire protection in an area experiencing high growth.
Kent Greene, a senior vice president with Emergency Services Consulting International, presented findings of a four-month study to the city commission Tuesday.
The study provided several models for fire facilities, but an expansion to three fire stations was the top recommendation because of how well it distributes fire department resources and provides protection.
“The three-station model is preferred because it provides you coverage of current demand, plus it allows you to look at the future development on the east side of the city,” Greene said.
The study recommends a third station near Schulman Avenue and Jennie Barker Road. Fifteen years ago the city purchased about 6 acres of land in that area.
The ESCI study evaluates the current Garden City Fire Department facilities and analyzes various locations for potential future facilities that would meet current and future service demands.
The city commission authorized the study in May after talking about priorities for future fire station projects, including a possible remodel of the central fire station downtown and building a third fire station.
The study also concluded that the existing central station and Labrador Fire Station 2 are meeting existing fire service demand, but need some renovations.
At the main station, the department is looking to build an addition to house new living quarters. The station was built in 1982. A meeting room was remodeled in the past for a dormitory area but more space is needed.
The addition would allow the dormitory space to be turned into administrative office space for the fire marshall, three battalion chiefs, Chief Allen Shelton’s office and an administrative assistant.
Some of the needs identified at both existing stations included upgrades to alarm systems and vehicle exhaust removal systems, upgrades for storage and improved livability spaces.
“Regardless of the model chosen, Station 1 (downtown) needs some renovation and expansion for co-ed staffing. If staffing is going to improve there’s potential that more female firefighters are going to come on board. There needs to be separate spaces for those individuals,” Greene said.
The consultant also provided three other options for fire facilities, including maintaining the current two-station model; an alternate two-station model that would relocate Station 2 to the Jennie Barker/Schulman Avenue location; and a three-station alternate that would build a new station at Jennie Barker/Schulman Avenue and relocate Station 2 farther west near Taylor Avenue.
Greene said the city’s two stations meet current demand for service, but don’t take into account future growth and development, especially on the east side.
“The intent of this process is to help you plan for what development and population will be in the future,” Greene said.
The alternate two-station model would create an entirely new station while effectively mothballing the Labrador station for later use if necessary.
Under the alternate three-station model, Greene said the consultants were thinking outside the box, essentially thinking in terms of a totally new design for the fire department. He said the configuration would provide better overall coverage for the area and increase effective response for a much larger area but it would be the most expensive.
When asked how much a third fire station might cost, Greene said a lot depends on the size of the station, its equipment and personnel. However, he said a base two-bay, double deep design could cost $3.5 million to $4.5 million, an estimate that doesn’t include staffing and ongoing personnel costs.
“Understand, this is a tool. This is our looking at the information, looking at your historic service demand, looking at what development is coming on and then allowing you to incorporate some of this long range planning into your community-wide comprehensive plan,” Greene said.
Most cities’ comprehensive plans have multiple pages about water and sewer, transportation, parks and other departments, Greene said, but emergency services typical has a few paragraphs. He said ESCI attempts to help fill that niche to provide policy makers with information needed to make decisions in the future on critical and often expensive resources.
The GCFD serves a population of 37,000 to 40,000 in a 1,320 square mile area, including areas outside the city. The department currently has 38 personnel, and a fleet of 13 apparatus including five engines, one aerial ladder (quint), two rescues, two squads, one tender and two aircraft rescue and firefighting apparatus stationed at Garden City Regional Airport.
The department’s 2015 budget is $2,940,648, and about 83 percent of the budget is made up of personnel costs.
The study notes that GCFD’s per capita cost is $81.39, much less than the $135.60 median per capita cost nationally, and $105.72 per capita in Kansas.
“Although the overall budget for the fire department has increased over the past five years, when you compare it to per capita median for the nation, Garden City is significantly lower in per capita cost perspective than other departments of similar size,” he said.
Mayor Roy Cessna said it was a good report.
“It will definitely help us with our decision making process,” he said.
Chief Allen Shelton thanked the commission for authorizing the study and allowing the information to be gathered.
“I think it will be very beneficial not only to our organization, but to the city as a whole,” he said.