The Modesto City Council is keeping Modesto Fire Station No. 6 open while deciding whether or not to close it, according to The Modesto Bee on Friday. Station No. 6, which serves Vintage Faire Mall, the surrounding businesses and hundreds of private homes, condominiums and apartment complexes, provides an invaluable service to the community. In addition, the station responds to medical dispatch calls and works in concert with American Medical Response in providing medical services to those in need. Station 6 provides first responder services to all of the businesses and residences within its zone , as well as to other areas of town when summoned.
At issue is the annual budget for Station 6, which is slated at $1.4 million. However, with projected overtime pay of around $600,000, the more accurate figure would be closer to $2 million. The City of Modesto desperately is in need of funds; however, whether closing Station 6 is an acceptable means of saving money is still open to debate on the City Council. Thus far three members of the Council are against closing the station: John Gunderson, Bill Zoslocki, and David Lopez. The City Council would like to have a $3 million reserve fund. However, impacting a vibrant, thriving retail and residential community in Northwest Modesto may not be the most desirable means of establishing that reserve fund and maintaining vital community services, according to many observers.
Zoslocki has discussed the possibility of having rolling "grey outs" during which certain stations would be closed for short durations while other stations service their coverage zones. While this may save the City money in the short run, in the long run it would result in slower response times in life threatening situations and increased liability and insurance costs for the City. Right now, the Council is weighing all of the options and Station 6 remains open while its fate is being carefully considered by the Council members.
Councilwoman Jenny Kenoyer wants to take a second look at the situation before making a decision as does Tony Madirgal. However, Mayor Garrad Marsh reportedly opposes keeping Station 6 open. Councilman Dave Cogdill is against keeping the station open because he does not want to borrow money for the general fund:
"I think that at this point in time, I'd say no."
The issue is further complicated by the likely retirement of nine firefighters whose positions can be filled by firefighters from Station 6 if the station closes. However, if the station stays open, those positions will have to be filled by new hires or not filled at all, resulting in more overtime pay for the existing firefighters.
However, public safety, not financial encumbrances, is supposed to be the number one priority of fire stations and engine companies. It remains to be seen if the City Council makes public safety its number one priority.
Four Council votes are needed to keep Station 6 open. This definitely will be one issue to watch over the next few weeks.