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Dec 28, 2011 7:34 PM by Andy Koen

Union questions plans to staff new fire station

COLORADO SPRINGS - The fire chief and the union president are at odds over plans to staff a new fire station in Stetson Hills. The city will break ground on the new $3.6 million Station 21 at the intersection of Peterson Road and Dublin Boulevard early next year.

Interim chief Rich Brown says the new fire house is needed to help first responders to get to emergencies more quickly in the rapidly growing northeast side.

"The response times aren't what we'd like them to be relative to the metrics that we use to measure all of our response times for our current 20 stations," Brown said.

The department currently has the cash needed to build the building, but that's all. Brown says in order to staff and equip the new fire house they will have to redistribute a fire truck and firefighters from one of the larger two-engine stations elsewhere in the city.

"They'll all have fire trucks at every station, they just will take one of those trucks and a crew and put them at Station 21," Brown explained.

Jeremy Kroto, president of the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Association Local #5 agrees that another station is needed, but questions why the new hires are being ruled out so quickly when the station won't open for another 18 months.

"We're real hesitant take away resources that are in a place for a reason already that are fulfilling a very necessary job function," Kroto said.

"If you take one crew out of the station and move it to another where they absolutely need the work, it's kind of robbing Peter to pay Paul."

But Chief Brown says the department can't count on the economy to pick up and need to be practical with the money they have.

"(We must) be as prudent and as innovative and as creative as we can to stretch our budgetary dollars and be a great steward of the tax payers dollars," Brown said.

Another new station(#22) is planned for the Northgate area. Construction will be paid for by the developer and Chief Brown expects to use a similar arrangement to staff it. However, that station isn't expected to open for another two to three years.

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