COLUMBIA - Out of the city's nine fire stations, three Columbia stations are looking for a face lift. Stations four, five and six are all listed on the Capital Improvement Plan for being remodeled or rebuilt in the next 10 years.
"Well all three stations, stations four, five and six opened in the 1970s so they are older stations to begin with," Columbia Fire Marshal Brad Fraizer said.
The stations' age isn't the issue though. City law requires public buildings to be ADA accessible, and currently the stations don't meet those requirements. These changes would include things like lower sinks in the bathroom and handrails on the walls.
The fire department also wants to build drive-thru access for the firetrucks. Without this feature, firefighters are forced to block traffic while they pull out onto busy roads and back into the bays. The fire marshal says these conditions are less than ideal, but they try to stay safe.
"We have spotters that come out and make sure that there's a backer at all times. We use our lights when we are backing up," Fraizer said.
The safer alternative is making the drive-thru feature more common across the country, and Columbia is no exception.
"Station 3 was remodeled and added that, we added that feature then. Station 2, some time ago was remodeled for that feature. And the other stations, Station 7 was rebuilt and relocated, Station 8 was built as a drive through and Station 9 was built with a drive-thru," Fraizer said.
While Station 4 and Station 6 are most likely going to be remodeled, Fraizer said Station 5 has a unique problem. The road the station currently sits on used to be a thru road. However, in 2011 the road net changed leaving a dead end on either side of the fire station. This means the station sits backwards on Ballenger Lane. With the current setup, firefighters at Station 5 have to load the trucks, pull out of the driveway and make two right turns before they can make it to the main road. Fraizer said the station will be rebuilt in the current location, but turned 180 degrees to face Ballenger Lane.
"We would improve our response by a few seconds. It wouldn't be dramatic, but none the less any amount of time saved in an emergency response is of great value," Fraizer said.
Aside from improved response times, firefighters at the station told KOMU 8 News there have been issues with the building settling and the ceiling tiles falling. They said the building definitely needed some work. However, they still have some time to wait. The project won't be funded until 2016. The work will be funded from an existing quarter cent sales tax. However, the capital improvement sales tax is set to expire in 2015.
"It will sunset at December of 2015. In that time before that, sometime in 2015, we have to ask the voters to renew the capital improvement sales tax," Columbia Financial Director John Blattel said.
The tax was originally approved for 10 years back in 2005. Blattel said he expects the tax to be renewed for another 10 years. If voters approve the sales tax again, construction for Station 5 would be on the budget in 2016.
The Capital Improvement Plan shows construction for Station 4 and Station 6 would not be funded in the city's budget for another three to 10 years.