Eagle fire station expansion on track | VailDaily.com

Eagle fire station expansion on track

Scott N. Miller

The Greater Eagle Fire Protection District is seeking town approval of a major addition to the existing fire station. When completed – perhaps as early as early next year – the expanded firehouse will have seven bedrooms, four bathrooms, an expanded office and conference space.

The district will finance the expansion the same way the towns of Gypsum and Eagle have paid for their town halls – through a lease-purchase agreement that will be paid over 10 years, something like a mortgage. Money for the payments – $140,000 per year – will come from the department’s general fund and impact fees.

The 4,100-square-foot, two-story addition is part of a two-phase department improvement project. The $420,000 addition will be paid for with existing funds and by cutting back on capital expenses.

The other phase of the plan is adding new staff, made possible by the spring passage of a mill levy increase for the district. As many as five new firefighters will be hired over the next several months, bringing the department’s paid staff to 10.

Eagle Fire Chief Jon Asper said the new paid staff will come from the department’s volunteer corps.

When the department is up to full strength, firefighters will work in 24-hour shifts, staying at the firehouse while on duty.

Firefighter Chris Blankenship said he’s looking forward to being on a more set schedule than he is now. Currently, all the paid staff and virtually all the volunteers have radios. When an alarm sounds, everyone available comes running. The department answered more than 900 calls last year, and has already set call records in June and July of this year.

That workload takes a toll on firefighters and their families, Blankenship said. The ability to split the paid staff will be a relief, he said, but the real impact should come in the volunteer ranks.

Asper said he wants to augment his paid staff by asking volunteers to commit to shifts as they’re able to take some of the pressure off people who now come when they’re called.

Blankenship agreed, adding that asking volunteers to commit to set shifts may make recruiting unpaid staff a little easier.

“This way you can schedule family time and not feel like you’re abandoning the station if you’re gone,” he said. “That might entice some people into volunteering.”

First, though, the building needs to be built and new firefighters hired. Asper said he expects the addition to be complete in the first few months of 2003.

This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.

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