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Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Upgrade of University Ave. Fire Station 20 delayed yet again

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE
The long-awaited replacement of the West Midway’s Fire Station 20 (2179 University Ave.) will wait for a few more years. A proposed $1 million allocation to start the station relocation and replacement process has been zeroed out of the city’s 2019 Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget (CIB). The change, proposed by Mayor Melvin Carter’s administration, was reviewed by the CIB Committee in September. It will be adopted at year’s end as part of the city’s overall 2019 budget.

The budget calls for moving $500,000 to the East Side’s Fire Station 7. Another $500,000 was moved to Rice Recreation Center in the North End. Funds for both projects will be used to plan new facilities.

A check with Midway Chamber of Commerce and area district councils indicated that people weren’t aware of the proposed budget change.

East Side’s Station 7 was a flash­point in last year’s city budget process because adding a medic rig there took away a fire engine. The new, larger station would allow a fire engine to return to Station 7, said Ward Seven Council Member Jane Prince.

Fire Chief Butch Inks presented plans showing Station 7 being completed in 2020-21. The planning and construction process For Station 20 would then start in 2020-21.

Inks said replacement of Station 20 is also an infrastructure need. Station 7 was built in 1930. Station 20 was built in 1921.

Station 20 serves parts of the West Midway, Merriam Park and St. Anthony Park. Earlier this year an ambulance was added there to meet a growing demand for medical services, under a plan announced by Carter. The closest ambulances were at Station 23 (1926 Como Ave.) or Station 14 (111 Snelling Ave. N.) Moving the ambulance was hailed as an improvement for public safety.

A fire engine was moved from Station 7 to Station 20, tripling the number of rigs there from one to three. But that sparked the battle to get the engine back to the East Side.

Replacement of Station 20 has been discussed for more than two decades. Studies over the years, including the 2017 TriData consultants’ study, indicates the city has gaps in fire service coverage, including West Midway. The need becomes more pronounced with redevelopment along the Green Line light rail, where many new housing units have been added.

Another need that has been raised is fire safety at the Westrock, formerly RockTenn, paper recycling plant one block south of Station 20. It is the only one of WestRock’s facilities that doesn’t have an on-site fire station. Company officials have long contended that the lack of fire protection has stymied efforts to expand and upgrade facilities.

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