TOPEKA (KSNT) – The Topeka City Council heard, but did not act on, a recommendation to close four fire stations Tuesday night.
A representative from Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) told council members it should consider closing the stations at 934 N.E. Quincy, 813 S.W. Clay, 1215 S.W. Oakley and 2010 S.W. 37th and build two new stations.
Those two stations would be at S.W. Gage Blvd. and S.W. 10th Ave. and at S.W. Topeka Blvd. and S. Kansas Ave.
Kent Greene, the project manager for ESCI, also said the city could consolidate stations to “maintain the current level of service.” The presentation was made as an update to a 2006 study.
“We want to ensure that the resources are still available to continue to provide an equal level of service,” Greene said before the city council meeting. “We are not reducing the number of fire trucks, we’re not reducing the number of people. The resources that are in the two stations that would close but will be relocated to other stations so that it would still be able to serve the community.”
Before hearing the presentation, two city council members expressed concerns about the proposed closings.
“What I want to see, is everyone in the city covered appropriately with an appropriate response time,” said Karen Hiller, District 1 councilwoman. “I’m really open to how we get there, I want to protect the citizens.”
Sandra Clear, the councilwoman from District 2, was also skeptical before hearing more details.
“I really want to wait till the consultant explains it and I get to ask my questions,” she said. “Because I’m not quite sure and understanding why that’s going to be better than what we have.”
Other parts of the recommendation included additional engines for station 5 and station 11 “to complement the current resources and provide sufficient coverage to the northern areas of the city.”
Directly after Greene’s presentation, City Manager Jim Colson said discussing the details of the recommendations at the meeting would be “premature.” But several council members had questions.
In the presentation paperwork given to the council, Greene had a chart that compared Topeka to cities with comparable populations.
Topeka, with approximately 127,000 people had an average response time of 4 minutes and 51 seconds. Olathe, Kan. has an approximate population of 125,000 people with an average response time of 5 minutes and 17 seconds.
“Many times, studies such as these are conducted because there is a concern about current service delivery,” Greene wrote. “That is not necessarily the case for Topeka.”
Clear wanted to know if the system in Topeka is working, like Greene mentioned in his presentation, why should the council consider the recommendations.
“Will there be cost? Probably,” Greene said. “Will there be substantial savings? Probably not.”
Colson said there will need to be several more conversations about the recommendations before any decision is made. There was also no detailed discussion about how much these changes may cost the city.