May 30, 2012 9:12 PM by Ariel Wesler, KSBY News
Santa Maria has a new fire station. Fire Station No. 3 on the northwest side of town was officially dedicated Wednesday.
Construction took a little more than a year to complete. The new $2.1 million facility on Preisker Lane will replace the old Fire House Three on College Drive. It's all part of the fire department's plan to improve response time.
The Santa Maria Fire Department says the new building is only a small part of big picture. City leaders are also pushing to pass Measure U to give public safety personnel the funding they say they desperately need.
For firefighters, it's a major upgrade.
"We have more room. We have more room for equipment. At the other station, we were really cramped getting our engines in the bay," said Chad Wennerstrom, a Station Three Firefighter.
They expect to move out of the 80-year-old building and into to their new home next week.
"All my stuff's at the other station packed up. I come back to work at this station," Wennerstrom said.
But the Santa Maria Fire Department says building this facility only solves part of the problem. The current Fire Station No. 3 is the busiest in the city, handling about 40 percent of all emergency calls. So, city leaders are now calling on the community.
"With a little help on June 5th with Measure U, we'll be able to staff Station No. 5 and truly provide the north end the city with the service they deserve," said Santa Maria Fire Chief Dan Orr.
Station No. 5 is scheduled to open in July, near Donovan and Suey Road, but the fire department can't afford to staff it unless voters approve a quarter cent sales tax increase, the city's first ever tax hike.
"We'll be able to fulfill our promise to the people of Santa Maria that if you dial 911, around 90 percent of the time, we'll get there within five minutes," said Santa Maria Mayor Larry Lavagnino.
Along with the new station comes a piece of history. An 80-pound piece of steel from the World Trade Center is attached to the front of the station and serves as a reminder for firefighters every time they enter the building.
"It's truly an honor to have such a hallowed piece of steel attached to our station," Orr said.
A station that could help play a big role in improving public safety.
"We're going to have probably the best coverage we've ever had in the north end of the city," Orr said.
The city plans to lease the old facility to American Medical Response for its ambulances and hopes that will aid emergency responders.
If Measure U passes on June 5, it would raise the sales tax in Santa Maria from 7.75 percent to 8 percent and generate about $4 million per year for nine years.
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