A new report by an independent consultant recommends that Lexington consolidate two downtown fire stations and possibly relocate two other fire stations.
The city paid about $70,000 for an analysis by Public Safety Solutions Inc., a public safety consulting group, which considered population growth, fire response times and other factors, including the number of tall buildings in a given area, to map the best locations for future fire stations in Fayette County.
The study will be presented to the Urban County Council during its meeting Tuesday. This is the first independent analysis of future needs for the fire department. The department has done its own studies in previous years, city government spokeswoman Susan Straub said.
Public Safety Commissioner Ronnie Bastin said Friday that many of the consultant's recommendations were in line with the fire department's conclusions about combining some operations. The fire department now has 23 fire stations. The newest station was built in 2007 on Clearwater Way.
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Bastin emphasized that Public Safety Solutions' report must be vetted and debated by the council before any action is taken.
"This will give us a road map for the next 10 years so we won't have to go through this again in a few years," Bastin said.
One of the key findings of the review showed that two downtown stations — one at 246 West Jefferson Street; the other at 370 Merino Street — should be combined at the West Jefferson Street location. The city owns land adjacent to the Jefferson Street fire station and could move the unit housed at Merino into the Jefferson Street station after it is remodeled, Bastin said.
In addition, the report recommends moving fire station 7 at 3315 Tates Creek Road a little more than a half-mile to Tates Creek Road and Windermere Road. Fire Station 10 at 1128 Finney Drive should move to Newtown Pike north of New Circle Road, the report says.
Both of those recommendations are based on population growth in the city's outskirts, Bastin said.
"But moving a fire station less than a half-mile would likely be very cost-prohibitive," Bastin said.
Bastin said he expects consultants with Public Safety Solutions to discuss the reasoning behind their recommendations during Tuesday's meeting.
The city is in the process of moving fire station 2 from 415 East New Circle Road to Eastland and Murray drives. During a report to the council in May, architects projected the new fire station will cost about $4 million. The moving of fire station 2 was in response to a population shift in that area.
In addition, the city is in the early design phases of placing a new fire station in the Masterson Station area to serve that growing population. However, those plans are still in the early stages, Bastin said.
In addition to analyzing where future fire stations should be located, Public Safety Solutions made other recommendations that will be discussed Tuesday, including replacing the city's aging training facility and possibly relocating fire headquarters, currently on Third Street, and moving fire investigations, which is on a building on Second Street.
Councilwoman Peggy Henson, former chairwoman of the council's former public safety committee, said the council agreed to use surplus money for the independent analysis because the city needs an overall plan to determine how fire stations should be situated to serve Lexington's growing and shifting population.
Former Councilman Ed Lane had urged the council to pursue the independent analysis, arguing that it could save the county millions of dollars in future costs. Lane died in August after battling cancer for two years.
"We have a lot of downtown stations that are within a mile of one another," Henson said. "They are very costly to maintain because they have to be staffed 24 hours a day."
Henson said Friday that she had not had a chance to read the full report and so could not comment on its recommendations. Henson said she looked forward to hearing more Tuesday about how the group did its analysis.
"We have an excellent fire department," Henson said. "But we want to make sure it's as efficient as possible and provides the best services to citizens."