116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Relocation of Fire Station 3 a priority over fourth fire station in Marion
The goal is to address coverage gaps among vulnerable populations on the city’s south side
Initially, after the new Marion Fire Department Headquarters opened in the summer of 2021 — the city’s first new fire station in 30 years — there were plans to find land and get started on building a fourth fire station in the northeast corner of the city.
However, when Fire Chief Tom Fagan presented the department’s 18-month plan to the Marion City Council in November, he said he planned to make the relocation of Fire Station 3 a top priority in the next couple of years.
Fagan noted coverage gaps in the southern portion of the city. He worked with the city’s geographic information analyst Rachael Murtaugh to identify areas in the city needing improved coverage and compared them to areas where vulnerable populations live.
Fire Station 3, which was built in 1964, was scheduled for a $500,000 renovation, but that funding could be reallocated to help pay for a new building, Fagan said.
At the same time, the city still is looking for a place to build Fire Station 4 in northeast Marion, which also has a coverage gap.
A 2015 accreditation study found the city, whose population grew by nearly 20 percent between 2010 and 2020, needs four fire stations. The fourth fire station would be built near Highway 13 and 35th Avenue.
In 2020, the Marion City Council approved spending $1.1 million to for the fourth station land and training facility. The city budgeted $400,000 for the station project, with the Marion Firefighters Association contributing $695,000 for the training facility, largely through a trust fund set up by Don and Ruth DeVault.
What’s happened since?
Fagan said planning for a relocated Station 3 is preliminary.
“Right now, we’re running studies and looking at opportunities for land. There’s still quite a bit of work that needs to be done,” he said. “Right now, it’s not an approved CIP project and once it is approved, we’re looking at a three-year process with design and construction.”
There are no prospective locations right now, but Fagan said the new station needs to be built south of the current Station 3, which is located at 600 Eighth Ave. Currently, southern Marion is densely residential and finding a space that works without affecting traffic and neighborhoods is a top priority.
Fagan also said it’s his goal to decrease operating costs with a new facility. The early cost estimates for a new Station 3 are around $8.2 million.
“With the new facility, we would look into where we can decrease operating expenses with alternative fuel and solar, which is a smart long-term investment for our taxpayers to reduce financial burden,” he said. “The existing Station 3 was being looked at for refurbishing in the coming years, so if we’re looking at wise investments, is it smarter to relocate and optimize the deployment?”
The design would most likely include three drive-through fire apparatus bays, each of which would be bigger than the bays at the current Station 3. The living quarters and office space in the building would be smaller than the space at the new headquarters, Fagan said.
Murtaugh created a social vulnerability index for Marion, which takes the 2020 census data looking at poverty level, dependent age, transportation access, racial and immigration status and other socioeconomic factors that can increase financial and disaster hardships.
“Then that’s where we overlay the fire department’s geographical coverage gap over that vulnerability index,” Murtaugh said. “When I brought it to other city people who have been here longer, it correlated to their understanding, but I think it was a surprise to see it laid out on a map.”
Fagan said with the combination of the two maps and the knowledge that Station 3 was due for an upgrade, it makes more sense to prioritize relocation of Station 3 over construction of a new Station 4.
“The vulnerable populations are denser in the southern gap and vulnerable populations are at greater risks, especially as the majority of our calls — around 80 percent — are EMS calls,” Fagan said. “It’s not minimizing or taking anything away in the northeast gap. That’s still a threat and we’re looking at options in the future. But right now, based on these factors, the ability to relocate existing resources, that’s a more cost-effective solution.”
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