TWIN FALLS — At last Monday's City Council meeting, the council approved two different notions to help revamp the Twin Falls Fire Department. The first was a grant worth three million dollars from the Twin Falls Rural Fire District to help begin construction on a new regional training facility. The second was a funding plan to replace fire stations two and three.
Typically the fire department has to train within their own houses, block off streets to recreate emergencies, and even gain possession of buildings being demolished for practice. The new facility will get rid of these issues and the extra steps taken to perform certain activities.
The overall cost of the new training facility is 20 million dollars. The grant from the fire district will act as the initial step to create some infrastructure for the facility. Over time, the city will look for other means to collect the additional funds needed to complete its construction.
City Manager, Travis Rothweiler, said, "We'll continue to look for grants. We'll continue to look for partnerships. And we'll continue to find resources to be able to create a world-class training facility that all fire departments in the Magic Valley can benefit from."
The facility will provide both rookie and veteran firefighters those everyday type emergencies the department faces. However, it will also allow them to practice specific scenarios the department cannot always replicate.
Fire Chief Les Kenworthy said, "We want to really spend a lot of focus time on our low frequency, high-risk type of event to train for. So, those are things that we don't do on a daily, everyday basis in the field or on that everyday call, but we don't have the ability to train on those. This facility will have those components."
In 2019, there was a proposed 36 million dollar bond, which failed despite a 64% majority in favor vote for replacing fire stations two and three. However, the bond needed a 67% supermajority for it to pass. The city has been able to approve this new plan because they have reduced the cost to 11 million dollars.
The city was able to do this because the stations are now smaller than initially proposed. There are also two separate anticipation notes issued by the city's General Fund and its Enterprise Fund.
"Each fire station is going to cost about 7 million dollars, but we're able to buy down the costs of fire station number 2 with impact fees that have been collected through the issuance of building permits for a considerable period of time. We'll take that 3 million dollars, we'll but down the 7 million to four, and that's how you create an 11 million dollar price tag," said Rothweiler.
Both stations are between 50 and 60 years old and have outdated technology, living standards, and are experiencing decay such as mold and leaky roofs. To help accommodate more modern living standards that loads of fire stations are now adopting, is to have a designated area for dirty equipment. This will allow for gear to be properly cleaned and limit exposure to carcinogens and other potential health hazards.
"When we come back from a fire where we have our dirty gear, dirty apparatus. We keep all that area contained into one area and locations to decontaminate the equipment, our gear, that sort of thing. The new stations will have that capability," said Kenworthy.
Officials hope for the training facility to be ready for use within a year and for the two new fire stations to be ready by late 2022 or early 2023.