Thursday November 10, 2005
No tax increases, no layoffs will be needed
Mayor Jerry Abramson today said he will propose a long-range, multi-million-dollar investment in modernizing the Louisville Fire Department, including new and relocated fire stations to improve response times and match today’s needs.
The mayor released an extensive, independent study of fire-protection needs within the urban-services district, the first major review in more than 30 years. The mayor will use the study, along with input from firefighters and neighborhood leaders, to develop the fire modernization plan that he will propose next spring in his 2006-2007 budget.
“Our hometown deserves a modern fire department, deployed with equipment and from stations that best meet our needs for the 21st century, not the 19th century,” Abramson said. “The Louisville Fire Department is steeped in tradition, and this is the next stage in the department’s proud history of providing this community with the most advanced fire protection.”
Abramson pledged that his modernization plan would have three requirements:
· No tax increases will be needed to fund the improvements;
· No firefighters will be laid off to implement the plan;
· Changes will be phased in over the next decade. Study recommends 9 new fire stations
The study by TriData, a national consulting company that has performed 125 similar studies in other cities, found that fire station conditions and locations limit response and that demand is expected to continue to decline. As a result, the study recommends a redeployed Louisville Fire Department with 17 fire stations and 24 front-line trucks, rather than the current 22 fire stations and 28 trucks.
Over the next 15 years, the study recommends building nine new fire stations and maintaining eight existing stations; specifically:
· Building five modern firehouses in new locations;
· Building or completely overhauling four firehouses at existing locations;
· Replacing or retiring 10 outdated firehouses, including six century-old structures;
· Purchasing 17 new trucks as part of an accelerated vehicle-replacement plan.
The study estimates an average cost of $1.8 million for each new fire station. It recommends putting $2.5 million to $3 million in the vehicle replacement fund each of the next two years to accelerate the purchase of new trucks and about $1.8 million annually in future years to meet the replacement schedule.
The six-month review was headed by Stephen Brezler, a 32-year firefighting veteran from Baltimore, Md. The study relied on actual run data and took into account population changes, building densities and type, projected call volumes, firehouse location and capacity.
The study looked at how fire-prevention efforts and advances in smoke alarms and sprinkler systems have steadily reduced the number of structure fires in Louisville’s urban core. In the past 20 years, structure fires within the urban-services district have dropped 50 percent, from 1,135 in 1984, to 559 last year. The study also factored in the creation of a separate EMS department earlier this year.
The Louisville Fire Department responds to emergency medical calls to help provide care, but the department no longer provides EMS transport.
In addition to deployment changes, the study recommends enhancements to the department’s data collection, coordination with other agencies, and vehicle maintenance. Input sought for implementation plan
Abramson will gather input from firefighters regarding the report’s findings, and the features they need in modern firehouses. He has asked Deputy Mayor Bill Summers, Public Protection Secretary Kim Allen and Fire Chief Greg Frederick to meet with firefighters in each of the department’s 22 stations during the next two months.
The mayor also will ask representatives from neighborhood groups and Metro Council members within the urban-services district to serve on a Neighborhood Fire Advisory Panel. Abramson Administration and Fire Department officials will meet with the panel members early next year to discuss the deployment study and how the recommendations would affect neighborhoods. The city’s Planning and Design and Neighborhoods departments will be involved to discuss with neighbors how new firehouses will be integrated into neighborhoods and how retired firehouses may be used.
“The completion of this report gives us the information we need to create a 21st century plan to better protect our community,” Abramson said.