MURRAY — With two fire stations for the Murray Fire Department deemed by many as not being up to standards worthy of the men and women who serve that agency, the Murray City Council took a step toward improving that Thursday.
By a unanimous vote, council members approved pursuing the construction of a new station on South 16th Street, which is where the current Station No. 2 is located. This came after a spirited discussion during a meeting of the council’s Public Safety Committee that preceded the full council meeting.
For more than half an hour, the committee — with some council members who are not part of that committee also offering their opinions on the matter — discussed the issue, with input also coming from architect Craig Thomas of the Owensboro-based RBS Design firm and City of Murray Fire Chief Eric Pologruto.
It was Thomas that designed Station No. 3 at the intersection of North 12th Street and Utterback Road that went into service a few years ago on the city’s north side.
“RBS did a study of your existing facilities and, by today’s standards, both facilities (Station 2 and Station 1 downtown) are in poor condition. Even though they can be candidates for renovation, that still wouldn’t be able to resolve all of the issues in having a safe, effective and well-managed fire station,” Thomas told the council, noting that stations being constructed today require features such as drive-through bays for trucks to be able to enter from the back and then go to calls from the front entrance,l. They are also constructed as one-floor structures, which limits risk to firefighters and the public with not having to negotiate stairwells.
“The Station 1 site (which would need to be 22,000-23,000 square feet by current standards) is only 13,300 square feet. That does not allow for addition. Station 2 is 2300 square feet or so; it needs to be 10,000 by today’s standards.”
Strong debate developed in regards to whether the better move would be Station 2 being replaced with another station on the same site or building a new station to cover the rapidly-growing southwest side of the city on Robertson Road. Pologruto said that currently, with Station 2 covering that side of the city, response times to most areas are within the goal of four minutes or less, but in the farthest southwestern areas, it increases to about five minutes.
Ultimately, though, an arrangement between Murray State University and the city from several years ago might have tipped the balance in favor of replacing Station 2 and building a new facility on the same land. City Administrator Jim Osborne told council members that the university deeded that property to the city with the condition that a new facility be built. If that does not happen, the property would return to the university.
Still, Councilman Jeremy Bell was focusing on one issue.
“I think the biggest factor is not whether to build on 16th or for the southwest; the fact is there is one that’s going to be built on 16th. Then you’ve got to look at downtown. You can’t renovate it because it’s in terrible shape,” Bell said. “If you build one on Johnny Rob, that means you’re going to have four stations.”
Pologruto agreed with Bell’s assessment.
“What is going to happen to Station 1 if the council decided to build a substation on Robertson Road? Fire administration would probably be left at Station 1 and I think everyone has toured that station and would agree that the conditions there are terrible,” Pologruto said. “How are we going to upkeep that facility for however many more years down the road?”
This issue will now go to the council’s Personnel and Finance Committee, which will determine how to finance this endeavor. Currently, the city is in pursuit of a $500,000 grant that would help ease that burden, but it is not known what the city’s chances are of being successful in that pursuit.
For several years, the council has been trying to tackle the ongoing issue of making North 16th Street safer where it moves through the university campus.
Thursday, with assistance from Murray State, the council passed a measure that includes the first tangible plan, something that is more than just design work, of which the council has spent about $800,000 over the years. Thursday, the council unanimously passed a plan to spend a fraction of that — $250,000-$350,000 to be exact — to construct what are known as traffic tables in about four or five crosswalk areas between Five Points and Main Street.
The measure was first approved unanimously by the council’s Transportation Committee before going to the full council for approval.
City Street Superintendent Ron Allbritten described the tables as being about 22 feet in length and rising steadily to an apex point in the middle.
“Speed tables are designed to whatever the speed limit is, and if you’re driving that speed limit, it’s not that rough a transition,” said Allbritten, who Osborne indicated brought this idea to the discussion several years earlier. “The speed limit out there is 25 mph. If you try to cross it at 40 mph, it’s going to be very rough.
“It works the opposite of a speed bump. The slower you drive over a speed bump, the rougher it is, but the faster you drive over one, the smoother it is.”
Osborne said the council’s approval Thursday authorizes Rogers to seek emergency or discretionary funds from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for this project. Along with Rogers, this has the support of Calloway County Judge-Executive Kenny Imes, as well as Murray State President Dr. Bob Jackson and his staff, he said.