A new fire station has long been planned for the Skyline Drive area on top of the Homer bluff. But as that project just became a little bit more expensive.
A new fire station for Skyline Drive has been on the City of Homer’s Capital Improvement Projects list for several years. Last year, the Homer City Council re-appropriated a half-million-dollar grant from the state legislature to pay for the station.
Bob Painter is chief of the Homer Volunteer Fire Department. He told the city council Monday that the original plan for the Skyline Drive station was pretty bare bones – just a small facility used primarily to store equipment out of the elements.
"But we started looking at a larger picture," said Painter. "We started looking at the future and what facilities would we need up on Skyline to improve fire protection in that area."
Painter now envisions the department’s reserve fire engine being stationed at the new facility, as well as an ambulance and a brush truck. Painter said that at some point, it would make sense to have a water tanker truck located there, too, to cut down on fire response time along the bluff area.
With all of those vehicles located there, the new fire station would require four vehicle bays, as well as a small office and a restroom.
Painter says the Skyline Drive station would be un-manned, at least at first. He’s hopeful that new volunteers who live in the area might be able to store their emergency response equipment there.
Of course, upgrading from a tent-like structure to a permanent building costs money. The estimated cost of the project has gone up from $500,000 to $598,000. That’s the lowest bid amount the city received when it put the project out to bid in January.
So where would the extra $98,000 come from? City Manager Walt Wrede proposes to use $15,000 from the city’s fire reserve fund while the rest - $83,000 – would have to come out of the general fund.
Council members seemed supportive of the idea Monday but Mayor Beth Wythe suggested the full amount come out of the general fund, so as not to deplete the fire reserve fund. The council introduced the ordinance at its regular meeting Monday night. It will come up for a round of public testimony at the next council meeting, scheduled for March 24th.