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Fire department 'burn house' put on hold

By DAVID TEWES
Sept. 9, 2010 at 4:09 a.m.


OTHER ACTIONWHAT: The final vote on proposed budget and tax rate

WHEN: 5 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Council Chamber, 107 W. Juan Linn St.

It appears the Victoria Fire Department will have to wait at least several months before it's able to buy a training facility for firefighters.

"We do not currently have a building that is safe to conduct fire training in," Fire Chief Vance Riley told the city council Thursday.

Council Member Gabriel Soliz made a motion to amend the proposed budget by $180,000 to buy a "burn house" for the fire department. But the amendment had only the support of Soliz.

The current budget included money for a burn house, which is a facility that can be used to burn hay and pallets in so firefighters can train. But money for the burn house was frozen because of the economy's effect on the city budget.

Riley proposed the burn house for the upcoming budget that takes effect Oct. 1, but it was cut by a budget team of staff members.

The fire department currently has a cinder-block building for training.

"We can generate smoke in that building," Riley said. "We can still use it for training in obstructed visibility environments."

Riley said it is not rated for actual flames.

The burn house would be metal shipping container that could withstand flames. It would have an estimated life of 20 to 25 years.

Mayor Pro Tem Paul Polasek said Soliz voted Tuesday against the proposed budget and tax rate, but money for the burn house would have to come from somewhere.

He suggested waiting a few months to see if income from the sales tax increases. That might provide enough money to buy the burn house, he said.

Council Member Tom Halepaska agreed.

"Not that I don't believe they need it, because they do," he said. "But we can add it later."

He wanted to wait until after the council reviews a list of capital improvement projects, which will probably happen next month.

In other action, the council was split again on adoption of the proposed $160 million budget and property tax rate. The vote was 5-2 on second reading.

Opposed were council members David Hagan and Gabriel Soliz.

The city staff has proposed increasing the property tax from 64.5 cents for each $100 of taxable property value to 65 cents. The proposed rate is still below the effective rate of 65.21 cents, or the amount that would bring in about the same income as the previous year.

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