Fighting fire with facilities |

Fighting fire with facilities

City Council, emergency officials discuss expansion options

Steamboat Springs firefighters, from left, Scott Hetrick, Brian Shively and Matt Mathisen talk in the garage of the Mountain Fire Station after returning from a call. Cramped fire station facilities are spurring discussions between the Steamboat Springs City Council and fire district officials about building a new facility.
Matt Stensland

Bus facility approved

Also Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously gave final approval for a $220,000 land purchase from the Moffat County Board of Commissioners. The city will use the land for a parking structure for Steamboat Springs Transit regional buses.

A report by city staff states that nearly all costs associated with the $1.4 million project - which includes the land purchase, demolition and construction of the new facility - will be paid by federal and state grants. The city will contribute $150,000 from its general fund for the project.

— Local fire district officials are considering moving the Yampa Street fire station in downtown Steamboat Springs and asking voters for funding through a property tax increase.

The Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Board – the oversight committee for the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District – met with the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday to discuss several options for the future.

Through an intergovernmental agreement, the rural fire district shares services and works in conjunction with Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue. Both departments are outgrowing current funding resources and firefighting facilities, officials said.

“Our apparatus space is totally taken up. We don’t have any more room to add any more fire engines or ambulances inside,” said Bob Struble, assistant chief of Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue.

“We need to ask our taxpayers for money to go forward,” added Fire Board member Bob Kuusinen, who said current funding sources for the rural district expire in 2010, making a funding extension through a ballot issue vital for the district.

Struble said his department is “getting ready to hire” the six new firefighters funded by the city’s 2007 budget. Three additional firefighters are proposed for 2008, he said.

But growth in the department, which officials say is needed to protect a rapidly growing population in the Steamboat area, is stretching fire resources and again raising questions about how to expand facilities.

“This has been explored before,” Struble said, citing considerations for a new public safety building on Downhill Drive in 2005.

Those considerations flamed out, leading to Tuesday’s discussion of a potential new fire station west of downtown Steamboat.

“Yampa Street will be our riverfront,” Councilman Towny Anderson said, referring to mixed-use developments on Yampa that will change the face and use of the street. “Unless that vision is rejected, it’s in our interests to relocate our emergency services.”

Questions about where to put a new fire station coincide with questions about planning for the area west of Steamboat.

“It’s the same type of discussion we’re having about moving the (downtown) post office,” Council President Susan Dellinger said. “How does this intertwine with everything else we’re doing?”

Struble said four firefighters provide “24/7” on-duty service at the Mountain Fire Station near The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. The six new firefighters will allow for two full-time staffers at the Yampa station.

“We’ll be manning both stations, hopefully, by the end of March,” Struble said.

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