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Gainesville Fire Department eyes new station in 2015
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TAX WATCH

Government agencies are presenting their proposals for the fiscal year 2015 budget that begins July 1.

Gainesville: Fire department

FY 2015 request: N/A
FY 2014 budget: $6.3 million
What’s new: Fiscal year 2015 funding priorities include hiring new fire prevention personnel and opening a fifth fire station.

Officials with the Gainesville Fire Department hope to open a new fire station along Dawsonville Highway in the 2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

“That’s where the growth area is,” Chief Jerome Yarbrough said Thursday after sharing his budget priorities with the City Council.

But doing so will likely require assistance from grants and other funding sources as the department’s budget is not anticipated to increase much.

The current budget is about $6.3 million, and City Manager Kip Padgett said he expects little change in the coming fiscal year. Public safety agencies already account for more than 50 percent of the city’s general fund budget.

Yarbrough said meeting growing demand for services is critical as the role the fire department plays in emergencies continues to expand. For example, fire trucks are often the first on the scene when ambulances are tied up or not able to respond as quickly. In many ways, firefighters are the city’s first responders and deal with medical emergencies as well as blazes.

Yarbrough said he also would like to increase personnel in fire prevention services next year to ensure building inspections and fire investigations remain a priority.

The department has focused its efforts this year on reducing arson incidents and expanding its data management systems to allow for access of information and records at the scene of a fire.

It also has worked to improve its response times.

According to Yarbrough, the average response time from the moment a call is received to the moment when fire trucks arrive is 7 minutes, 14 seconds. Meanwhile, the in-route response time is 5 minutes, 27 seconds.

“We’re running smooth on all cylinders,” Yarbrough said.

The department currently operates 12 fire trucks and employs 103 personnel across four stations. Yarbrough said morale was “on the right track” and thanked city officials for continuing to support the funding requests of the department.

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