Friday, May 22, 2009 | 1:01 p.m.
Hoover Dam bypass bridge
Boulder City will need six more firefighter-paramedics once the Hoover Dam bypass bridge opens in 2010, a new assessment of police and fire department needs reveals.
In addition, according to the assessment, the city will need to fill a dispatcher position that has been left open to save money.
With an additional 3,000 to 4,000 heavy trucks expected to roll through Boulder City once the bridge opens, both departments are anticipating a dramatic increase in the need for their services, Fire Chief Kevin Nicholson and Police Chief Thomas Finn told the Boulder City Council on May 19 while presenting the assessment.
The assessment was based on personal experience and not any specific data.
“We are risk managers. We go by what the trends are and what our experience tells us,” Nicholson said when Councilman Travis Chandler asked if there was an estimate of how many fatal crashes involving trucks the city might expect beyond 2010.
Mayor Roger Tobler said an assessment that included hard numbers might help the city in pursuing grants to cover the extra costs. “We can take them to our congressional delegation and say, ‘This is why we’re going to need your help,” he said.
The Fire Department responds to 2,100 calls a year, most of them for emergency medical situations, the report says. The city’s fire station, 1101 Elm St., has two rescue trucks and one fire engine on duty every shift.
During building fires, it’s not enough, the report says. The department has to call in off-duty firefighters and outside agencies, the report says.
Fortunately, Nicholson told the council, the department does not have to deal with many of those. “We may only experience one structure fire a year, but when it happens, we have to be ready,” he said.
The Fire Department would either need six more firefighter-paramedics to handle an increased load or it would have to revamp its reserve program to allow more use of more part-time firefighters, Nicholson said. That would require negotiations with Teamsters Local 14, which represents firefighters, he said.
The report found fire and police dispatchers are stretched to their limits.
Police dispatchers, who handle 2,800 calls for service a month, do not have time for required training, the report says. The training they were able to complete in the past year required 90 hours of overtime.
Part of the problem, the assessment says, is that the Police Department has had trouble in the past year with attrition and only recently got the staff up to seven dispatchers.
An eighth position is being left open to save money, but Finn told the council it needs to be filled before the bridge opens.
The department also needs updated dispatch software to become more efficient, Finn said.
“The dispatch software we use does not meet the needs of police or fire,” he said. “It is labor-intensive for dispatchers. There are much better systems out there.”
He said he has his staff researching new software and grants to pay for it.
Both chiefs underscored the extra demands the opening of the Hoover Dam bypass bridge will put on their departments.
Nicholson said delayed response times could occur because of the increased calls. He suggested that the fire station’s location on Elm Street, off U.S. 93, might delay response times if fire vehicles have trouble getting through heavy traffic on the main thoroughfare.
Tobler said the city may have to revisit a proposal for an access road between Veterans Memorial Drive and Pacifica Way that would allow not only residents but also emergency vehicles to bypass traffic on the U.S. 93 truck route.