In an effort to better spread out fire coverage services across the city, Sherman is looking at a possible merger of two fire stations. City officials unveiled tentative plans to merge Central Fire Station and Station 2 during early budget talks ahead of the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
The current layout of fire stations may have met the city’s needs 50 years ago, but current growth, including on the city’s west side, has led the city to reconsider its coverage areas, officials said.
“If the city did not grow one lick from here on out, we’d still be looking for a better location for a station that could better serve our city,” City Manager Robby Hefton added.
The talks of merging the stations at a new location comes amid discussions of building a new police station somewhere on the city’s west side. If this new station is built, it would free up space in the existing police station that could be used by other departments, including Sherman Fire-Rescue’s administrative staff.
This could allow the fire station to be restructured and renovated to be closer in staffing and equipment to the other stations. However, officials said they wanted to consider all options before making a decision.
“The reason we haven’t come to you and said this is the plan we need follow is because there are some other dominoes that are tied to this that affect fire and these other departments,” Hefton said referring to the police station project.
The city currently operates five stations but only four are full stations with both fire and EMS in house. Central Station, due to housing administrative staff, only houses fire operations.
“We need to be close enough with the proximity of our stations for our guys to respond with the right number of people at the right time with the right equipment,” Hefton said.
In total, the department receives about 7,700 calls per year, but the majority go to the other stations, he said.
“Stations 3, 4 and 5 … cover about 70 percent of the calls,” Hefton said. “Stations 1 and 2 together cover about one-fourth of all the calls.”
City officials spoke briefly about the proposed merged station during the city’s annual budget workshop, but did not indicate specifically where it would be. Hefton said it could be located somewhere east of downtown but west of Grand Avenue. It would likely be along either Houston Street or Lamar Street.
Through this, city officials said, it would allow them to pursue creating three-man engine teams for all of its stations. Currently, these teams can vary from two to three firefighters per engine, Hefton said. Additionally, the merger would alleviate the need for the nearly $1 million renovation of the existing Central Station.
Regardless of the city’s future growth, Hefton encouraged the council to consider the possibility of the new station as the department could use it now based on current call volume and demand.
“We are not building a SimCity from the ground up,” Hefton said. “We are reacting to what is on the ground.”
What do you think about the proposed station merger? Let local government reporter Michael Hutchins know at MHutchins@HeraldDemocrat.com.