A bit of a kerfuffle occurred last week, revolving around our attempts to find suitable land for the four fire stations which will be built with funding from the voter-approved sales tax increase in Lincoln. Although it will be quite awhile before we turn a shovel, we need to find sites, and either purchase land or acquire a first-right-of-refusal. Otherwise, when the time comes to build, we may find that all the suitable parcels have evaporated. We are not the only ones looking for reasonably-priced building sites with good access to arterial streets in rapidly-developing areas. Go figure.
One of the more problematic locations identified in our optimization study is the S. 84th Street and Pioneers Boulevard area. We really need to be within a half mile radius of the intersection, and the pickings are getting slimmer as time passes. So earlier this year, when we were contacted by an owner of two parcels that abut 84th Street about a quarter mile south of Pioneers, we expressed an interest. Before we signed an agreement, however, we thought it wise to meet with the neighbors, and sent a letter to all the property owners within 500 ft. of this potential site.
Last Wednesday night, Assistant Chief Pat Borer and Battalion Chief Eric Jones heard an earful--so much so that we have put negotiations on hold for the time being, and are studiously looking at every other potential site within that half-mile radius. We're checking to see if any other suitable sites are for sale, large enough, have access to the streets, and would meet our needs. We are happy to do so, and my fingers are crossed.
We want to be good neighbors. Right now, 11 of our 14 fire stations are right next to residences, directly across the street, or both. While you might have your conversation interrupted by a siren from time to time, for the most part I think a fire station can be a very good neighbor, and far better than some other land uses that you tend to see along busy five lane arterial streets.
This new station near 84th and Pioneers replaces the extant Station 12, which is about a mile and a half further north. That station is woefully inadequate, and falling into disrepair. Our optimization study found that if it was relocated we could dramatically improve our coverage and response times to areas of Lincoln that have developed since it's original construction in the 1970's.
A lot of the concerns our staff heard last week dealt with lights and sirens. Station 12 is not among our busiest, nor our least busy fire stations. So far this year, Engine 12 has made 232 emergency runs between the hours of 10:30 PM and 6:30 AM--less than one per day during those hours. This time period is the slowest portion of the day for emergency calls, so it's not as if the din is constant late at night and in the wee hours of the morning. About a third of those emergency runs went south of Pioneers, so Engine 12 was driving right by those same residences.
I think our other three optimal locations will be somewhat less problematic. In the meantime, we will keep looking for the best place to relocate Station 12, with an eye on the cost of land acquisition, suitability of the building site, impact on response time and coverage, and concerns of neighbors. Lots of things have to be considered and balanced.