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Public Safety Commission Calls for Temporary Fire Stations

The Austin fire Department has tried to secure funding for years to construct five new fire stations in an effort to keep up with Austin's growth.  Each year, however, the city council has found a reason to put the issue on the backburner, usually citing budget constraints.  This week, Austin's Public Safety Commission made the unanimous recommendation to urge the city council to find a way to fund temporary fire stations in Del Valle and the Travis Country neighborhood due to a rapidly growing response time for some residents.

In Del Valle, the response time can very dramatically.

"It takes us nine minutes in one area and another area it takes us at least 19 minutes to respond," said AFD Assistant Chief Anthony Davis.  "It's definitely a big difference and I definitely understand the residents' need for a temporary station."

As commission chair Rebecca Webber pointed out, there's also a financial burden on some of the homeowners in the areas in which AFD has a greater response time.

"People in these neighborhoods are seeing their homeowners insurance rise because insurers think they are in greater danger," Webber said.  "So if insurers are charging more money to insure these people's homes, then we can take from that that they are in more danger."

Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Firefighters Association, has given a couple of options that AFD may be able to seek in making these temporary stations a reality.

"We're looking at a tollbooth on 130, just north of Elroy.  I've been in contact with Senator [Kirk] Watson and Representative [Eddie] Rodriguez.  They're looking into it.  The department put in an official request to maybe use that location.  That would allow us to put a permanent one in a better location and buy a little more time."

Nicks said AFD has also been looking into renting some space in Sunset Valley to better serve the Travis Country neighborhood.

Pflugerville recently constructed a permanent fire station for only $3-million, which has frustrated Nicks.

"We're doing something fundamentally wrong in in this city if we can't do something twice as expensive as Pflugerville, and still not get it done."

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