EDITOR’S DESK: On ‘repositioning’ Station 3
When voters approved a .4-cent sales tax that included fire and police stations in August 2001, the ballot made no mention of Station 3.
This was a particular relief at the time to Westsiders who had fought to keep Station 3 open, defeating a 1997 Colorado Springs Fire Department plan to close it. It seemed to mean the station was safe, right where it's been since 1950, at 922 W. Colorado Ave.
However, the Fire Department came to Colorado Springs City Council this week with a new idea that includes moving Station 3 - albeit to a location that would theoretically not be far away - and redefining its mission as the primary responder for the downtown. The move, called a “respositioning” in a Fire Department Powerpoint slide, would be in conjunction with Stations 1 and 8 moving farther east.
Whether or not this is a good idea apparently is too early for civic leaders to determine, based on the comments that came out of City Council at its Jan. 26 meeting and at the Public Safety Sales Tax (PSST) Oversight Committee meeting the next day.
Just as an aside, I kind of like that acronym (PSST). It seems perfect for a volunteer board whose role is to basically whisper in council's ear (“psst!”) if its members reach the conclusion that the sales tax voters approved in 2001 is not being spent appropriately.
The odd thing - well, there's more than one thing odd about this - is that PSST is not automatically being buttonholed to become the task force council wants working between the city and citizens in thinking through this station relocation proposal.
There's no doubt that PSST is paying attention. During the Fire Department's presentation to the committee, one of the PSST members noticed something nobody else had - that two graphs were switched. The workload graph for 2002 was in the slide for 2011, while the 2011 graph was in 2002's. OK, anybody can make a mistake, but one would like to see the Fire Department heads, in proposing a $6.6 million switcheroo from the station-location planning that's gone on before (including that which led to the ballot issue!), show more care in building their case.
There's one last aspect that's troubling, and that's the apparent lack of interest by the Fire Department in what the public wants. Yes, I know, there was a Powerpoint slide calling for “public input” and “open house discussions” at affected fire stations. But the fact that Station 3 was brought up so unexpectedly, after all the acrimony that went before, makes a person wonder just what Fire Chief Manuel Navarro is thinking. A comment he made to council may be an indicator: “The average citizen may have some difficulty understanding how difficult some of these issues are.”
Au contraire, Mr. Navarro. People know the difficulty. That's why it's so hard to pass a tax increase in this town, and you ought to respect that.