Denison moved one step closer to rebuilding portions of the West Side Fire Station Monday when the City Council approved a contract to move forward with the design phase of the project.


City Manager Jud Rex said the project had been previously approved by the council during the current fiscal year’s budget process. He explained the next step in the process will be for the construction manager to work with the architect to begin finalizing the plans that will be submitted to the council for approval. Rex said he expected construction on the fire station, which is located at 2720 W. Morton St., to begin by the end of the summer or early fall of this year.


“It is a completely new living quarters and station for them to operate out of,” Rex said. “It is something for them to be proud of.”


The city manager said the work will basically amount to demolishing the old living quarters and building a new fire station. Rex said the city doesn’t have the exact date of when the structure was originally constructed but he said it was sometime in the 1960s.


Assistant Fire Chief Mark Escamilla said the upgrades to the station are needed for the city’s firefighters.


“It is going to be a newly upgraded place for them to stay,” Escamilla said. “They are in there 24/7; it will be nice for them. They have been dealing for a few years now with some drainage issues and things like that. It will be a blessing for them to have a nice place to stay.”


During the budget process last year, Rex said the renovation of the station would cost around $600,000. Fire Chief Gregg Loyd previously said the tower, which has been out of use for several years, has seen structural damage from repeated fire training and will soon be a safety hazard from natural wear. While the project is ongoing, Loyd said firefighters will be housed in temporary trailers and the construction is not expected to affect the service of the station.


In addition to the work at the West Side Fire Station, Rex said Denison will release an official statement Tuesday on its plans for proposed changes to the city’s EMS structure.


During a budget workshop last month, Loyd presented a plan to privatize the city’s emergency medical units by outsourcing the department’s ambulance service to a private firm. Loyd said the fire department had 54 shift staff members and he wants to reduce that number by 12 positions.


The fire chief said the department’s firefighters have been facing an increasing amount of overtime as a result of the department being down 10 firefighters.


“It puts us in a difficult situation to manage,” Loyd said. “They (firefighters) are getting so much of it (overtime), they don’t want to work. We’re not in any critical place yet. In an effort to make sure we don’t get there, we need to do something with the numbers. As soon as the decision is made, if you tell them it will be over in two months, they will see the end and suck it up.”


Another issue facing the department is the high turnover, Loyd said the privatization of the EMS would help alleviate the department’s overtime issue and its high turnover. He said reducing staff would also help spread pay raises out.


“We turned-over 11 people last year and 10 people so far this year,” Loyd said.