Iowa City opens new fire station


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Fire Station 4 will officially open its doors today after 11 years of planning.

Talks about the station, 2008 N. Dubuque Road, started in 2000 but lost momentum after the events of 9/11, said Fire Chief Andy Rocca.

When Iowa City officials broke ground on the project, in October 2009, there was some concern over whether the Iowa City City Council could pay for the nine new firefighters to staff the station.

And though the City Council approved the additional positions and funds have been budgeted, Mayor Matt Hayek said, city officials had to forgo other things to be able to do so.

"We're in a budget climate that is the worst that cities like Iowa City have seen in decades," Hayek said. "Staffing this fire station is a sacrifice in terms of the city's ability to handle other functions."

Hayek said the positions are paid for through the general fund, which goes toward basic staffing functions, and a 1 percent franchise fee.

With the addition of the nine new positions, Iowa City now employs 64 uniformed firefighters for.

Five new police officers have also been added.

Hayek said city officials have been unable to add staffing positions for several years, despite the city's has growth — both in terms of population and geographic reach.

"[The city] has been unable to add staff to handle that increase demand, with one exception," he said. "This was simply a reflection of priorities as it has been in the area of public safety. Everything else has remained static. It's a sacrifice to open the station, but it's a priority that we identify and support."

The station cost $3.2 million to build, $2.2 million of which was covered by an I-JOBS grant. The remaining $1 million was covered in part by property taxes and from the city's general fund, Rocca said.

Although sacrifices had to be made in order to staff the station, the new building will help decrease response times in the northeastern part of the community.

Before the creation of the station, response times in that area were in the eight- to 10-minute range; that should be lowered to four to six minutes, Rocca said.

"It's a dramatic improvement of service delivery," he said.

The new building also has something the other three don't, a drive-through station — a separate entrance and exit for fire trucks — which is both more efficient and safer for the firefighters.

"Having [Fire Station 4] be a drive-through is a big deal for Iowa City in terms of efficiency," said Kumi Morris, Iowa City architecture services coordinator. "All the other ones you back in to. It's not just inconvenient, but there are also a lot of safety issues."

City officials also hope to have the building be certified Gold by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design in the next year, a sustainability rating given to green buildings.

"We have a pretty high confidence we're going to be able to [receive Gold]," Morris said. "That's the hope."

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