Boise mayor prepares public safety pitch

Bieter wants $18.35 million for fire and police amenities as part of a bond measure proposed for the November ballot. This is the first story in a series looking at Mayor Bieter's proposed investments in the city. Coming installments will examine planned

sberg@idahostatesman.comAugust 17, 2013 

Boise Fire Department, fire station no. 5, public safety, bond

Firefighters from Boise Fire Station No. 5 head out on a call Friday. The majority of Mayor Dave Bieter’s proposed $34 million bond would go to public safety upgrades, including improvements to four fire stations. Station 5 is the oldest in town and, officials say, in need of renovation.



    When he first pitched a capital investment bond in June, Bieter included construction of a branch library in Bown Crossing in the expenditure items. But that won't be needed to get that project built: Bieter says the city can cover most of the cost of the Bown Crossing branch and an expansion of the Hillcrest Library through the sale of city property and unspent money left over at the end of the budget year. Bieter said he hopes construction can begin within 18 months.


    The city of Boise will hold three open houses next week where people can ask questions and comment on Mayor Dave Bieter's $34 million bond proposal. Here are the details:

    • 4 p.m. Monday, Morley Nelson Community Center, 7701 W. Northview St.

    • 4 p.m. Wednesday, Grace Jordan Community Center, 6411 W. Fairfield Ave.

    • 4 p.m. Thursday, City Hall, council chambers, third floor, 150 N. Capitol Blvd.

Next week, residents will have three chances to tell Mayor Dave Bieter and the rest of Boise's government what they think of his proposal to borrow $34 million for open space purchases and public safety and parks upgrades.

Public comment from a series of three open houses - Monday, Wednesday and Thursday - will find its way back to the City Council at an Aug. 27 meeting, Bieter spokesman Adam Park said. That will help the council decide whether to put the 20-year bond on November's ballot.

In his state of the city address in June, Bieter called the expenditures "a package of critical capital improvements." In the two months since that speech, no organized opposition to Bieter's proposal has emerged.

City officials estimate the bond would cost the average Boise homeowner an additional $13 each year in property taxes.

Most of the bond money - almost 54 percent - would go to public safety investments: new and upgraded amenities that fire and police officers say are needed to improve service across the city. Some of the upgrades are pretty mundane, such as new wiring and structural reinforcements.

Others point to a new era in public safety. The Fire Department wants to make its stations accessible to disabled people and add facilities such as bathrooms, showers and sleeping quarters for its women firefighters. Right now, two women firefighters are in the department. Deputy Chief Perry Oldenburg is sure that number will go up.

Times are changing for Boise's police force, too. With a population of more than 200,000, the city is poised to adopt a community-based law enforcement model. That means individual stations located throughout the city will specialize in handling patrol, investigations, outreach and other functions for their neighborhoods and populations. A central district police station Downtown would be the first step in that direction.


Location: 8485 Ustick Road

Built: 1972

Needs: Ladder truck and crew

Cost: $2.55 million

The Fire Department wants one of its three ladder trucks and crews to be able to reach almost any part of Boise within eight minutes. Right now, the trucks' response circles overlap in some places by as much as two minutes, leaving gaps in other areas.

Moving a ladder truck from station No. 6 or No. 7 to station No. 4 would solve the overlap-gap discrepancy, Deputy Chief Perry Oldenburg said. The station needs longer and wider truck bays to accommodate the ladder truck, he said. The station house also needs more room for the truck's four-person crew and a battalion chief.


Location: 212 S. 16th St.

Built: 1951

Cost: $2.5 million

Needs: Seismic upgrades, ADA compliance equipment, wiring

Boise's oldest and busiest fire station is a poster child for an upgrade. There is some concern about its wiring and ability to withstand earthquakes. Like other stations around the city, No. 5 is a candidate for facilities that support women firefighters.


Location: 4422 Overland Road

Built: 1956

Needs: Relocation

Cost: $3.2 million

The Fire Department wants its response time for standard fire engines to be no more than six minutes. As population densities have shifted, station No. 8's location has overlapped with station No. 6's and left a gap between it and station No. 3. The department wants to buy property between two and six blocks to the east and put station No. 8 there to balance the distribution.


Location: 3101 Sycamore

Built: 1975

Needs: Women's facilities, ADA compliance, infrastructure upgrades.

Cost: $1.3 million

Like No. 5, this station is deteriorating and wasn't designed to meet the demands of modern firefighting equipment, Oldenburg said. Station No. 9's own fire alarm and suppression system is inadequate and the building needs electrical and ventilation upgrades.


Location: 1791 W. Shoreline Drive.

Built: Early 1970s

Needs: Replacement

Cost: $6.85 million

The Fire Department's current training facility doesn't accommodate some of the training exercises and scenarios that firefighters, especially new ones, need, Oldenburg said. On top of that, training crews can't use fire-suppressing foam or other chemicals in the current building because it drains directly to the Boise River. A new facility would have more space and equipment. Multiple trucks and crews could train together in crowded emergency settings. The new facility would also support live burn exercises and allow firefighters to practice searching large areas.

The department wants to put its new facility near Boise's wastewater treatment plant in West Boise, where it would be convenient for use by crews from Meridian and Eagle as well.


Location: Downtown

Cost: $1.95 million

A decade ago, Boise's government decided to shift its law enforcement approach toward a district-based model. The city wants to move away from a chain of command that's organized according to specialties, such as patrol, drug investigations and homicide. In its place, the Police Department would place stations in specific areas of the city, with detectives and other officers responsible for every aspect of law enforcement in that geographic area.

The thinking is that the district-based model encourages officers to become more familiar with the area and people they respond to, leading to more effective law enforcement. A Downtown station would be a step in that direction.

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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