Plans for new San Antonio fire station clinched

By Craig Kapitan
The San Antonio Express-News

SAN ANTONIO — After decades of operating its fire department out of a deteriorating building across the street from City Hall, Kirby's city council put plans in motion last week to borrow money for a new one.

Council members voted unanimously to issue $3 million in certificates of obligation for a "public safety facility" to house the city's 16 full-time firefighters along with dispatchers and the department's emergency management team.

"We've been hoping to do this for a long time," City Manager Zina Tedford said. "It's the only facility that hasn't been rebuilt, renovated or brought up to standards."

The building, to be located on 12 acres near the intersection of Ackerman and Binz-Engleman roads, eventually could be part of a municipal complex that might include City Hall and the police and public works departments, officials have said.

A deal to buy the land for $300,000 was finalized in December with money from the city's building replacement fund. The council has added $50,000 to the fund each budget cycle for four years.

The new fire facility, which is still being designed, could be ready for occupancy by mid-2010, Mayor Johnny Duffek said Monday, describing it as long overdue.

"It's outdated, falling apart and the roof leaks," Duffek said of the approximately 45-year-old building, adding that the move is more crucial than ever now that the city authorized five new department positions as a result of an emergency services district approved by voters in May.

For years, Kirby has responded to fires in unincorporated areas of the county to the east without compensation, said Fire Chief Kevin Riedel. The new district will tax the approximately 7,000 homes in the expanded service area at a rate of 10 cents per $100 valuation, generating nearly $500,000 for the city this year.

Previous renovations to the existing fire station have converted an equipment bay into dorms, Riedel said. A new building, he said, could comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, allow for more privacy in dorms and create a separate shower area to make it easier to accommodate any female firefighters hired in the future.

"I never thought I'd see it in my tenure here, but we need it," he said of the new building.

The district's tax revenue and lower gas prices allowed City Council last week to free up roughly $200,000 for parks projects that had initially been left out of the 2009 budget, including two more Little League fields, and a concession stand at Friendship Park and parking lot improvements there.

Issuing the certificates of obligation is expected to take two to three months. The debt isn't expected to affect the city's tax rate over the 10 years it will take to pay it off, a representative with financial consultant First Southwest Company told the council.

Once the new building is finished, the existing structure will likely be demolished, officials said.


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