By Michael Hutchins Herald Democrat
Denison Fire Rescue is proposing several changes within the department — including a full conversion of the city’s senior center — aimed at streamlining service and improving the city’s ISO rating and other general improvements within the department.
Fire Chief Kenneth Jacks spoke on possible changes for the SNAP Center as a part of conversations on renovations to the Central Fire Station at the city council budget retreat last week.
“You’re talking about taking up the entire SNAP center? You’re taking up the whole thing,” Mayor Janet Gott said in response to Jacks’ proposal. “I think you are dealing with a political bombshell.”
The proposal came as Jacks was proposing ways to improve the rating that the department gets from the Insurance Services Office, also known as the ISO. The scale is used by insurance companies to determine rates for customers within a departments service area. The score overall reflects the area’s readiness to fight a fire.
Currently there are 82 agencies within the state of Texas that have a rating of one, the best score a department can receive. Currently, Denison is scored a three, but could be retested in the near future for an updated score. Jacks noted that the current layout of the city’s stations could cost it some points as they are not optimally placed for today’s population
One of the major projects that Jacks proposed in the feature was renovations and an internal rebuild of the central fire station. The station is approaching 50 years of service to the city, and while the structure itself is in good shape, it is in need of internal improvements and updates. Jacks noted that the building is out
Jacks noted that the building is outdates and only includes a single locker room. This is an issue with regard to having both male and female firefighters in the location. The building also have open bedrooms and other features that are no longer the norm.
While he noted the issues with the station and the lack of alternative sites for station 1, he noted that it serves a purposed by being in the heart of the community.
“Is it an optimal location? No, but its serviceable,” he said. “It’s were we want it in the area and everything.”
Jacks estimated the renovations could cost about $7 million to $8 million to pursue, but proposed an alternative that would reduce the overall cost by moving administration out of the station. Jacks said Interim City Manager Bobby suggested looking into some offices that were available at the SNAP Center.
However, Jacks instead proposed converting the entire building to meet the department’s needs. Jacks said several of the offices could be used by the department, but the other space within the building, including the main activity space, could also be utilized. Jacks proposed renovating the space to serve as a classroom space for not only Denison Fire Rescue, but the police department and outside agencies.
This was a hard sell for some members of the council, with Mayor Gott expressing concern on how this would affect groups and residents that use the facility.
“I know this is thinking outside the box, but if we use a facility that is already built that could be better utilized,” Jacks said.
Jacks estimated it would cost about $1 million to renovate the SNAP Center to meet the department’s needs an an additional $3 million to $4 million to renovate the central station as simply a fire station.
Jacks also gave an update on the department’s staffing following the decision in late 2021 to return EMS service to in-house operations. Prior to the decision, Denison Fire utilized a private provider for EMS service starting in 2019.
Jacks said the department is currently authorized for 62 personnel including 33 firefighter positions. Jacks said an new class of 10 firefighters is expected to start taking shifts in July, which will leave the department with a single vacancy.