On Nov. 5, the residents of Copperas Cove will be asked to approve $6 million in funds for the construction of a new fire and police substation for the eastern portion of the city, specifically in the area of the Five Hills shopping center.

The $6 million in bonds will pay for the actual construction of the station including contractor fees, testing services and bond issuance fees of approximately $85,000. The station will not only be a fire station. It will contain a large room that can be used for training sessions, civic group meetings and other gatherings such as committee meetings.

The building will also contain a “police substation” with areas for police officers to meet with complainants, conduct interviews and finalize reports without having to travel to the main police station downtown. There will also be a dedicated garage and storage area for police specialty vehicles that can be used in the Five Hills Shopping Center area during peak shopping periods.

The request to approve this amount of bond money is not made without a tremendous amount of thought and planning. In 2010, the city hired a consultant to review the future needs of the fire department and evaluate any impact specific measures may have on insurance rates for the businesses and residences in Copperas Cove. One of the primary recommendations from that study was the construction of a fire station in the area of the Five Hills Shopping Center so that the city could reduce response times to that area and prevent a possible increase in insurance rates due to a downgrading of the city’s Insurance Services Office rating.

More people, more calls

The immense growth in that area has resulted in both an increased number of calls for the fire department and an increase in response times. The national benchmark response time for fire departments is four minutes or less. The fire department’s current average response time to that area is five minutes, 49 seconds. That is an increase in just the past five years from an average of four minutes, 33 seconds (a 27 percent increase). In the portion of the city that would be served by the new station, there are currently four schools, four churches, 142 businesses, and 2,081 residential properties. The number of structures will only increase as development in that section of the city continues.

Fire department response times and occupancy information are utilized to calculate the ISO rating for the city. This rating is used to set insurance rates for all businesses and residents in the city, not just in the Five Hills area. The building of a new fire station in the eastern part of the city will help to maintain its current ISO rating of a 2. According to the consultant hired by the city, this will help to prevent an increase in insurance premiums due to a decline of our ISO rating.

The approval of these bonds will allow the city to maintain its high level of service to all its citizens while helping to contain insurance rates for property owners.

Burney Baskett is the Copperas Cove fire chief.

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