City's busiest fire station may close in 2021 (at least temporarily)
Less than one week after the Decatur City Council approved spending $3 million to build a new Fire Station #3, the city is proposing halting emergency response at its busiest fire station in the city, Fire Station #1 in 2021 (Fire Department administrators would still be located at the station).
This proposal, as well as 12 other options including reducing the number of sworn police officers, will be discussed at a study session on the economic impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 and 2021 city budget. The study session will take place on Monday, August 10 at 5:30 PM in the Decatur Civic Center Theater.
FIRE STATION #1 SERVES THE CENTER OF THE CITY WHERE NEEDS ARE HIGHEST
Fire Station #1 is the busiest station in the city and responds to approximately 20% of all calls. It is critical that response times to this area, and all areas of the city, are as low as possible. It is difficult to see how response times will not increase when stations that are on the periphery of Decatur respond to calls in the central part of the city. Ironically, in the coming weeks, the Decatur City Council will be discussing whether to build a new Fire Station #7 (currently at the Decatur Airport) in a location that is more central to its service area in order to reduce response times.
The possible closure of Fire Station #1 (at least temporarily) would come at a time when the number of structure fires in the city is increasing. Year to date through August 7, 2020 there has been 80 structure fires compared to 53 structure fires year to date in 2019 (51% increase).
NUMBER OF SWORN POLICE OFFICERS MAY GO DOWN AT A TIME WHEN SHOOTINGS ARE UP OVER 100%
One of the options being proposed is to “Increase the deployment of CLOs (Civilian Liaison Officers) and other non-sworn positions to back-up security and provide social services support to police officers, as natural attrition continues to occur in the Police Department …”. This proposal comes at a time where some crimes are increasing. Year to date thru June 2020, there were 60 shootings in Decatur compared to 26 year to date thru June 2019 (131% increase). We should have enough sworn police officers to respond to certain calls such as shootings, as they are the only trained professionals that can and should respond.
THE NUMBER OF CALLS FOR SERVICE TO THE POLICE AND FIRE DEPARTMENTS ARE SIMILAR OR HAVE INCREASED SINCE 2010 WHILE THE POPULATION HAS DECREASED
Decatur has one of the top ten fastest shrinking populations in the country since 2010. However, calls to the police and fire departments are similar or have increased. In 2010, there were 58,443 calls for service to the police compared to 58,829 in 2019 (1% increase). In 2010, there were 8,659 calls out for the fire department. In 2019, there were 10,968 calls out (27% increase). While calls for service have remained similar or increased, the number of police officers and firefighters have declined 15% (165 in 2010 vs. 141 in 2019) and 7% (116 in 2010 vs. 108 in 2019), respectively, between 2010-2019.
THIRTEEN PROPOSED OPTIONS FOR REDUCING 2021 EXPENSES
The memo provided to the city council included other options for reducing expenses including: “Partially or completely shut-down the Decatur Civic Center’s availability for nearly all functions other than use as municipal offices …”, “Completely outsource the Forest Division of the Public Works Department to regional tree services …” and “Reduce direct cash support to external agencies (senior center, convention & visitors bureau, EDC [Economic Development Corporation] , CIDC [Community Investment Corporation of Decatur]) …”.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON STUDY SESSION TOPICS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE
An agenda, explanation of each agenda item, and background information to the city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
If you would like to discuss this or any other issue with a city council member, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO ATTEND MEETINGS AND EXPRESS THEIR VIEWS
Citizens are allotted 3 minutes per person at the end of the study session. In addition, public comments limited to 3 minutes will be accepted at different times during the study session as discussions proceed. Meetings take place at the Theater located on the second floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance.