Leaders question necessity of West Plains fire station

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by WHITNEY WARD & KREM.com

KREM.com

Posted on April 26, 2013 at 6:35 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 12 at 9:17 PM

SPOKANE, Wash. -- As residents in Latah Valley ask for a new, nearby fire station, officials in another neighborhood say their recently added station might not have been unnecessary.

KREM 2 News first told you about Eagle Ridge community in early April. Neighbors say it takes as long as 30 minutes for emergency responders to arrive because the closest fire station sits in Downtown Spokane.

In West Plains, a fire station went up just over a year ago. Many there are now questioning if it was a good idea in the first place, including two city councilmen who say funding takes money away from other areas.

“There’s not a lot of money in city government right now. We’ve already lost a fire truck in Station 9,” Councilman Mike Allen said.

It’s an ongoing concern among city leaders: a growing population and shrinking budget for fire protection. The West Plains location is one of the biggest draws on local services. The city pays $1.3 million every year to staff and to maintain the building. On top of that, the city also pays half-a-million dollars every year just to County District 10 as compensation for the annexation agreement.

The concern is the West Plains station is in the same area as three others. It turns out state law requires the city to give its fire department bargaining unions the first right of refusal, though, on servicing any annexed property. It has the city’s hands tied on how to make a tight budget stretch into new neighborhoods like Eagle Ridge in south Spokane.

“Is it more difficult to find a solution because, at the same time, you’re funding this West Plains fire station? Oh, yeah. That’s part of it. That’s definitely part of it,” Councilman Jon Snyder said.

Snyder adds the other part is simple geography. They’re trying to serve multiple neighborhoods as efficiently as possible.

“I understand where they’re coming from. They need more fire service,” he said.

Now, everyone’s just wondering how soon it will happen.

At this point, city officials are still determining next year’s budget and just how much the fire department will be getting. They all seem to agree that any big changes, like a new station, are still years away.

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