updated: 4:41 p.m. Oct. 1, 2014
The city of San Diego is falling behind in meeting maintenance and new construction needs at fire stations as officials deal with a huge infrastructure backlog, according to a report delivered Wednesday to the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.
Preliminary data from an assessment of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department‘s 50 facilities, when compared to a similar study in 2009, show continued deterioration, the city’s Independent Budget Analyst’s Office reported.
The current assessment covers half of the department’s buildings and identifies $29 million worth of needs, already $7 million more than the study conducted five years ago, according to the IBA. Another 16 stations still need to be examined.
Councilman Mark Kersey said the report demonstrates how the overall infrastructure problem “permeates” with other city issues.
“This does not exist in a vacuum,” said Kersey, who chairs the council’s Infrastructure Committee.
“This is something where our ability to invest in our infrastructure directly impacts things like response times, which is a key metric in the world of public safety and, just frankly, the way the city is able to take care of its people,” he said.
The SDFRD has 47 neighborhood fire stations, an airport location, a communications center and a training facility. More than half are over 25 years old and some, like in busy Hillcrest, are too small to fit modern fire apparatus, according to the report.
The Hillcrest station, which is slated for replacement, also has problems with its water and sewer lines, and like many stations, requires a heating and air-conditioning overhaul, according to the IBA.
‘It’s a challenge, it’s a bit frustrating,” SDFRD Chief Javier Mainar said.
On top of the maintenance needs for the department, a consultant determined several years ago that 19 new fire stations need to be built just to keep up with the city’s growth and bring response times within national standards.
The fire department’s needs, however, are just a small part of an overall backlog of capital projects and major maintenance requirements that the IBA estimates could reach $2 billion, leaving numerous competing priorities for limited funding.
Current bond funding and a proposed bond issuance that’s been held up by litigation will only go so far in addressing the needs, the IBA report said. The bond tied up in court includes the funds that would be used for acquiring land for and designing a new fire station in the Mid-City area along Home Avenue, which the consultant said is the SDFRD’s highest priority.
Additionally, the IBA’s office has been warning for months that continued bonding to fund infrastructure would be unsustainable.
The report went on to say that Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s plan to dedicate half of this year’s tax revenue growth to infrastructure “will likely provide relatively small funding” in light of what’s needed.
City officials will need to come up with alternative revenue sources to “comprehensively address” infrastructure needs, the IBA concluded.
— City News Service