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Victoria City Council talks about expanding fire protection

By Melissa Crowe
May 7, 2013 at 12:07 a.m.
Updated May 8, 2013 at 12:08 a.m.


The council also:

• Approved setting three two-year term limits for Victoria Sales Tax Development Corp.

• Adopted the hike and bike master plan for the city

• Approved seven-year tax abatement with Ken Garner Manufacturing

• Approved spending $169,550 for a traffic light timing study

With growth in northern Victoria, the City Council will need to decide when to move forward with emergency services.

During Tuesday evening's City Council meeting, one thing became clear: A new fire station north of Zac Lentz Parkway can't wait long.

Fire Chief Taner Drake told council members that in order to keep the city's high insurance rating, which affects residents' insurance premiums, the city needs to build a sixth fire station on Ball Airport Road.

Traffic on Navarro Street and development in northern Victoria are creating more demand on the need for a sixth station, he said. Two structure fires in the city's north end took more than seven minutes to respond to, Drake said.

"If we wait, we could already be behind," Drake said. "We've got a pretty significant hole in there that, at some point, needs to be discussed."

However, before construction on a new fire station can begin, the city must build the northern extension of Ball Airport Road.

City Manager Charmelle Garrett said both projects would be up for discussion in June, when the council considers its capital improvements for the year.

Councilman David Hagan said he supports the addition.

"When it comes to fire and police and safety, you cannot skimp dollars," he said. "We're going to have to look at having another fire station out there soon."

The most recent fire station the city constructed, which is on Miori Lane, cost about $2 million, Drake said.

A sixth station would also need equipment and personnel, which would significantly increase the price.

Because the city fire department also receives county funding, it is possible the county would contribute to the bill.

Drake said the new station would be the most significant way to maintain the city's Class 2 rank with the Insurance Services Office Inc.

The office's Public Protection Classification Service gauges the fire protection capability of an area fire department to respond to structure fires, according to its website.

The office uses a nationwide standard to rank cities on a scale of one to 10. The ranking helps communities plan and budget for fire facilities, equipment and training.

In general, the maximum response distances for the first fire engine should not exceed 1.5 miles, Drake said. The first ladder truck should not have to travel more than 2.5 miles.

"They'd like to see six firemen on all fire trucks and a fire station about every six blocks, but we recognize that's not doable," he said.

Victoria's rating, which it has maintained since 2011, puts it in the top 1 percent of all fire departments in the country, Drake said.

Dispatch, placement of stations, response patterns, training and the community's water supply system all play into the rank.

The higher a community scores, the more residents can see savings on their home insurance premiums, Drake said.

Mayor Will Armstrong commended the staff and previous councils for having the foresight to lay the groundwork to attain a Class 2 rank.

"The action council took over the past couple of years lowered the insurance on my house," he said.

To maintain that rank, the city needs to take action.

"We're going to need a new fire station by 2015, and that's not in the not too distant future," Armstrong said.

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