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Fayetteville fire bond issue about reducing response times, officials say

by Stacy Ryburn | March 17, 2019 at 1:00 a.m.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Marcus Mason (right) and Nathan Whitekiller, both Fayetteville firefighters, charge a fire hose Wednesday during high rise firefighting training at the department's training facility in south Fayetteville. City voters will head to the polls April 9 to consider 10 bond questions totaling more than $226 million in projects. About $15 million is included for the Fire Department for three new fire stations, trucks and equipment.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The bond issue for fire protection will place stations where they are needed most, reducing response times and potentially saving lives, administrators say.

Voters will head to the polls April 9 to decide whether to continue the city's 1 percent sales tax to pay for about $226 million in projects. Of that, about $15.8 million would go to the Fire Department.

Call volume

The number of calls coming into the Fayetteville Fire Department has increased every year since 2010.

• 2010: 7,123

• 2011: 7,864

• 2012: 8,088

• 2013: 8,514

• 2014: 9,276

• 2015: 9,733

• 2016: 10,459

• 2017: 11,514

• 2018: 12,338

Source: Fayetteville Fire Department

About $15 million is budgeted for three new fire stations, three trucks and equipment. The dollar amount in the bond issue is a little higher than what's budgeted to cover whatever interest might be charged at the time the bonds are sold.

City officials haven't yet pinpointed where to put the new stations, but the department knows it wants one each in the south, central and northwest parts of town, Fire Chief David Dayringer said. Potential costs associated with land acquisition and design work are factored into the budget for the stations, he said.

Each station would have one company pulled from current personnel. A fire company is a truck and at least a captain, driver and a firefighter. The department wants to build the stations large enough to eventually house two companies apiece, Dayringer said.

"Fayetteville's going to continue to grow, and the call volume's going to continue to rise," he said. "The infill is going to happen, so we're positioning ourselves to be in the right place when that occurs."

Building the stations will get response times down to the department's goal of six minutes 90 percent of the time in those areas, Dayringer said. That targeted time includes four minutes for travel, one minute for call handling and another minute for firefighters to get in the truck.

The department isn't asking for the stations because they'd be nice to have, Dayringer said. Minutes equate to lives and property saved, he said.

"I've been doing this for 37 years or so and have been on a lot of calls where, if we had gotten there sooner, it could've made a big difference," Dayringer said. "And, when you see it work the way it's supposed to work, it's such a great feeling when you actually get to save a life."

The department estimates building three stations in the south, central and northwest parts of town will enable firefighters to get to about 2,000 more addresses within a four-minute drive time. The stations also will help maintain the department's ISO rating, which helps keep homeowner insurance prices down.

The rating comes from the Insurance Service Office, which analyzes public fire protection capabilities throughout the United States based on department readiness, water supply and dispatch efficiency. The Arkansas Insurance Department licenses ISO to assess fire departments statewide. Insurance companies, which pay ISO for its data, use the standardized ratings to calculate homeowner insurance.

The three stations should cost about $3.9 million each to build, Dayringer said. Another $3 million is budgeted for new trucks and equipment. The three trucks -- two engines and a ladder truck -- will replace aging vehicles.

The city has seven stations and about 120 firefighters, Dayringer said.

Voters in two other Northwest Arkansas cities recently approved bond issues for firefighters. Springdale voters passed a $17.6 million issue for firefighters as part of its $224.6 million bond referendum in February 2018. Rogers approved $9.5 million issue for firefighters included in its $299.5 million bond package in August.

The Springdale issue will pay for trucks, equipment and three new stations for about $3 million apiece -- one on Har-Ber Avenue, one on East Huntsville Avenue and another on West Downum Road.

Construction of the Har-Ber station is about 70 percent complete and should open by July 1, Assistant Fire Chief Jim Vaughan said. The Huntsville Avenue station should kick up dirt in June and wrap early next year. The department hopes to have the Downum Road station ready about a year after that.

Vaughan likened voting for fire facilities as choosing a level of an insurance policy. Residents could choose a base package or premium protection, depending on how much they are willing to invest in the service, he said.

"Hopefully, the voters will think about that. Maybe a fire station is not going near some voter, but they're already living close to a fire station," Vaughan said. "I know, looking at our brothers in Fayetteville, they have done the due diligence in planning out where those need to go."

The fire protection bond issue in Rogers will pay for a new station, trucks and expansion of the department's training center. Work at the training center should start next month, and the station is in the final stages of design, Fire Chief Tom Jenkins said.

The station will be on a section of West Pleasant Grove Road yet to be built near the Shadow Valley Country Club. That project is included in the $180 million bond issue for streets.

Jenkins said the Rogers bond issues serve as an example of different departments planning together to best serve the city.

"By us getting on that piece of road early on in that road's life, as development and congestion occurs over the next decades to come, we'll be in a perfect spot," he said.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan said he envisions that type of coordination in Fayetteville. The south, central and northwest parts of town have a number of projects planned under the nearly $74 million transportation bond issue.

"The goal is to get it in that four-minute travel range," he said. "With these fire stations and the kind of infrastructure we're planning on the roads, we'll have it there, I believe."

NW News on 03/17/2019

Print Headline: City says fire stations to cut response times


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