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NLR to study fire services to see if East End fire station is needed

The idea of an East side fire station in the city of North Little Rock is back again.

On Monday, the North Little Rock City Council adopted a resolution requesting proposals for a consulting firm to analyze the city’s fire department response times and services.

While the entire city’s fire apparatus would be studied, the main objective of the study would assess the need of a fire station on the east side of the city, which was annexed into North Little Rock several years ago.

“Taking into consideration the number of undeveloped lots in the eastern area of the city, as well as forecasts by local realtors, a projection of 500 to 1,000 residential units will be added, and up to 1,000 or more additional families will be residing in the area,” reads Resolution 2014-66.

The sponsors of the resolution are Ward 2 aldermen Linda Robinson and Maurice Taylor, who represent the eastern border of the city — whose citizens have been sounding the alarm for a fire station in their area for years.

The issue of an eastern fire station has been a topic of discussion for years.

About two years ago, former Mayor Patrick Hays placed a special tax initiate on a special ballot where a portion of the funds were to be dedicated towards an east end fire station.

The tax issue was held a few months after the city of Little Rock, to the surprise of many local politicians, placed its own proposal tax increase on a Little Rock special election ballot and voters there passed it.

Hays’ proposed levy failed and mum was the word on a east end fire station.

During the 2012 mayoral election, an east end fire station was part of the political debate. Candidate Tracey Steele pledged to have one built under his tenure while Mayor Joe Smith, who eventually won the election, said it was unlikely the station would be built without additional revenue.

Smith said during different political forums that several years before the city had planned to build a station there but the plans fell through for various reasons.

Several east end residents came to the Monday council meeting and expressed their desire for a fire station in their neighborhood.

Resident Patrick Benca said he supported having a consultant do a citywide fire services analysis.

“It needs to be taken into consideration,” Benca said. “We live out there. There are a whole lot of houses at there. They deserve to have the safety and a fire department just like every one here does.”

Benca added, “I don’t think a consultant firm is going to cost all that much money. You have to have all the facts to make an informed decision. We are not asking for a fire department at this time, but eventually probably will.”

Resident Stephen Hart said a meeting between east end residents and city officials was held about 2 weeks ago. “At that meeting, we were told we would not get a fire department,” Hart said. “I have had a fire department come to my home and it took longer than eight minutes to get there. North Little Rock cannot grow anywhere but east. I feel like east is being neglected and not taken serious.”

Resident John Santoro said the east end needs its own fire station.

“I have called 911, we have been directed to Scott, Lonoke, State Police, and that adds another two minutes,” Santoro said.

Santoro said it is taking fire companies too long to get to the east end.

“You are looking at 20 minutes on a fire,” Santoro said. “We are looking for 20 minutes. The rest of you go to sleep at night and not to worry. I have got two kids. I am not trying to be a thorn in the city’s side but this is serious business.”

Santoro added,” This is not about a pothole or speed bump. We think this is a very legitimate issue. If you take pretty things, like Bike Trails. If you take bridges, pretty parks and put them on a scale with a fire department, it is not even close. It needs to be on the agenda.”

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