Salt Lake City officials discuss closing fire station for budget reasons

Posted at 10:01 PM, May 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-08 00:01:33-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Alongside a row of transport trucks in Salt Lake City is the last station of fire trucks to the west.

The industrial park at 5822 West Amelia Earhart Drive is home to fire station 9, a 12-man operation that the city’s mayor now hopes to move elsewhere.

“That station has been getting only about two calls per day, and we believe we can achieve the same service out there by combining that station with another station,” said Mayor Ralph Becker of Salt Lake City on Tuesday.

In his annual budget proposal, Becker suggested closing the station to cut costs.

The move would mean all of Station 9’s coverage area would be divided between two nearby stations, 11 and 14, increasing the workload for both of them.

“We expect at least a two minute increase in those response times,” said Jasen Asay, a spokesman for the fire department.

According to data from their office, station 9 received 762 calls in 2013, fewer than any other station. However, station 11 took in 2,540 calls, while station 14 received 1,800.

“We know that this makes some risks out there, that it establishes risks in the city,” Asay said. “What we wanted to do is find a way to limit the risk that would happen with a 2 percent budget reduction.”

Included in the reduction is a proposal to minimize how often fire trucks are responding to medical emergencies. The mayor’s plan proposes using a 2-man medic team in an SUV to answer less serious medical calls.

“By having this medical response team, we can have smaller vehicles responding to those incidents,” Asay said.

Ultimately, though, the city council will decide what changes are made.

“It’s a tough decision for us because we need all of our fire stations. This station has responded to really important calls in the past, and of course, there will be those calls in the future,” said Salt Lake City councilman Luke Garrott, who represents District 4.

Garrott would consider losing other budget items, like a proposed 3 percent raise for city employees, over losing a fire station, depending on what will cost the public the most.

“We’re keeping an open mind and that will be a possibility,” Garrott said. “We haven’t raised salaries across the board at all. So, employees have sacrificed. Doing right by them is important, but we have to weigh that with other values.”

The public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed budget at two hearings scheduled for May 20 and June 3. The meetings will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the City and County Building in Salt Lake City.