The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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May 10, 2012

Joplin council approves buying two sites for new fire stations

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin City Council voted Thursday night in a special meeting to buy two pieces of property as sites on which to relocate the two fire stations destroyed by the May 22 tornado.

That decision will move Station No. 2 from 2216 S. Maiden Lane to the northeast corner of 13th Street and Schifferdecker Avenue. It will place Station No. 4, formerly at 2010 E. 15th St., at 3402 S. Hearnes Blvd., where a coin-operated laundry now stands.

Fire Chief Mitch Randles, in a presentation to the council about the proposal, said the intent in relocating the stations is to more uniformly spread out fire coverage so that more of the city is within a four-minute response time. Currently, the department’s seven stations, including one that was set up at the Joplin Regional Airport to answer calls to mobile home parks where some tornado survivors are housed, provide about 80 percent of the city with a four-minute response time. A section of the city in the northwest is more than four minutes away from a station. Relocating the stations would increase the percentage of the city that is accessible in four minutes to 90 percent, he said.

City Manager Mark Rohr asked Randles if the four-minute response time is based on getting to heart attack victims quickly because firefighters serve as first responders on medical calls. Randles said that is one reason, and that response to fires is another. He said a fire doubles in size every minute.

“When we looked at relocating the stations, it was not something we took lightly,” Randles said. “We looked at what was best for the entire city.”

He said the new locations would make response time to several new key locations in the city quicker. One site is the future Mercy Hospital, which is being built at 50th Street and Hearnes Boulevard, and another is the Joplin Athletic Complex north of Schifferdecker Park.

The city will pay $115,000 for the land at 13th Street and Schifferdecker Avenue, and $183,000 for the Hearnes Boulevard location. Randles said the city could sell the tracts where the existing stations are located. The 15th Street property might bring about $66,000, and the one on Maiden Lane from $161,000 to $300,000, he said.

The cost of building the new stations likely will range from $1.1 million to $1.4 million each, though that will vary according to the square footage selected and the bids, Randles said. He said it is likely that stations smaller than the new No. 6 at 5302 W. 32nd St. will be built in order to save money. City administrators want to use as little of the city’s money as possible to rebuild, and will try to keep the building costs close to what the city’s insurance and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay, he said.

Spreading out the stations so that coverage is not concentrated in the central part of the city will help the city’s insurance rating, which figures into the price of insurance.

Councilman Mike Seibert asked when the new stations would be ready to open. Randles said he hopes to start construction at the first of the year, and that the work will take 10 months to a year.

Councilman Gary Shaw asked if both stations would be built at the same time, and Randles said he would like to do it that way. He said the department is challenged to keep the firetrucks from freezing in winter in the temporary stations, even in last winter’s relatively mild weather.

Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg asked which fire company would answer calls to the area of 15th Street and Range Line Road if the 15th Street station was relocated. Randles said it would be whichever station or trucks were the closest, likely the stations on Newman Road near Range Line Road, and at 33rd Street and Texas Avenue.

The vote

EIGHT COUNCIL MEMBERS who were present voted in favor of the land purchases. One council member, Trisha Raney, was absent.

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