Payson has dropped immediate plans to sell the Main Street fire station, according to town officials.
On Sept. 30, the town announced it concluded “the bid process and negotiations related to the possible sale of Fire Station 11 ... without reaching a successful agreement.”
The release came out after the Roundup’s Oct. 1 paper went to press reporting the bidding process was underway. Negotiations involved an ATV sales business and a brewery, according to a council member who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.
A recent press release from the town said staff would present a study on the Main Street station at the Oct. 28 council meeting.
“Members of the public are welcome to attend (remotely) and hear more about its fire department,” according to the release. Payson is restricting council meeting attendance because of the pandemic.
The study focuses on the impact of emergency response times in the event the town sells the Main Street station. Studies show that response times of less than five minutes are critical for heart attacks and strokes and sometimes for house fires.
One man that has studied Payson’s fire response times is Chuck Jacobs, Payson’s first paid fire chief. He did a response time/service delivery study during his tenure from 1970 until 1992.
The art and science of
fire station placementWhen Jacobs was chief, Payson realized it had to step up its commitment to provide first responder service as it grew. The town tasked him with figuring out what it needed based on the geographical size of Payson.
The distribution of fire stations ensures emergency crews arrive at a scene within four minutes from being called out, said Jacobs.
“One minute out the door, three minutes of travel,” he said.
When he did the study, Jacobs laid out a map of the town on his desk. He drew a diamond around the town, dividing it into quadrants based on a mile and a half radius where, “the fire station is in the middle,” said Jacobs.
Ultimately, his study suggested putting Fire Station 12 in the general area where it is currently located off Rancho Road. The town bought the land and built the station after Jacobs left.
“You had to look at where you can afford property,” he said.
Jacobs’ research also suggested the town would need a station out near Tyler Parkway to cover the east side of town. Jacobs proposed the eastern station perch on the hilltop at the end of the community college property, but he agrees with the town’s choice to put Station 13 down lower at the corner of Rim Club Parkway and Highway 260. That location provided a flatter lot, which lowered construction costs.
But the Main Street station seemed good enough at the time he did his study, he said.
“We found out that Main Street is not good for the whole town, but good for the south quadrant,” he said.
This left the west side of town poorly covered.
Logically, the town would need a station at the end of Wagon Wheel Road, but that area does not have good feeder streets, said Jacobs.
You need a road map to negotiate the maze of streets to get to the end of Wagon Wheel, then onto Sherwood that offers access to Highway 87 off McLane.
The circuitous route takes too long to get to Sherwood Drive or Payson Parkway, the main feeder streets servicing the end of Wagon Wheel.
Once out to McLane, the engines would need more time to drive up Airport Road or Vista Road to reach the houses around the airport.
Jacobs believes a station up by the airport would serve a dual purpose, lightning-fast response times for a plane crash and support for homes off of Airport and Vista roads.
As a bonus, the new station could have the preferred modern drive-thru bays built in.
“They don’t want to back in anymore,” Jacobs said of current day firefighters.
Town Manager Troy Smith has also floated the idea of a fire station up by the airport.
Everyone agrees Payson needs a fire station on the west side of town — no one is sure exactly where to put it or how to fund construction, but since Payson’s early days a fourth fire station has been on the books.
Fire station placement a challenge
The placement of fire stations has evolved throughout Payson’s history.
In the 1960s, before Payson incorporated as a town, three sheds around town housed trucks for the all-volunteer fire department.
“It was a truck in a box,” said Jacobs.
When a bigger truck was bought, they’d lift the shed and put a new foundation underneath to provide enough space. By 1966, that Band-Aid approach no longer worked.
Residents built an all-metal shed on Main Street to house all the fire trucks.
“They put a 40x60 metal building down there,” said Jacobs.
The building didn’t last long.
“It collapsed in ’68 during a big snowstorm,” he said.
Going back to the drawing board, the town built a more substantial station and hired Jacobs in 1970 as the newly paid chief. Until that time, Jacobs had volunteered since he arrived in town that same year.
Jacobs transformed Station 11 in three phases from a metal building “with only three fingers’ width at the side mirrors of room” as back up space, into a multi-bay building.
Unfortunately, Jacobs retired with only two phases completed meeting in the middle with the original 1968 building.
Subsequently, Fire Chief Marty deMasi, who served from 2003 until 2013, connected the two separate buildings of Station 11 in 2005 to make the nine bays available to Payson fire now.
The trouble with Station 11
The Main Street station lacks many of the details inside and amenities that firefighters value, he said. It also is in the middle of the Main Street redevelopment district. The town for years has been trying to attract more tourist-oriented businesses to the long, inconsistent ramble of Main Street.
However, Jacobs said the fire station itself has plenty of room for fire vehicles — if you’re willing to back into the bays. “If you get all the cobwebs out of the way, it’s a pretty solid building,” he said.
He admits the town has wanted to build a Cadillac on a Chevy budget for too long.
“You’re talking to build a new one — the replacement is $8 to $10 million,” he said.
From the town’s budget talks, it’s clear the town does not have that kind of money lying around unless it issues bonds and goes into long-term debt.
Jacobs suggests putting a new face on Station 11, completing the inside and making it a Main Street showplace.
“The location is not all that bad,” he said, and it holds a lot of vehicles. “They are vehicles not used very often (but) you need to house them inside because of the winters.”
However, he said eliminating the station would cause additional problems.
Jacobs’ response time study concluded a single central fire station, perhaps near town hall, would make for efficient operations. The cost would be longer response times.
And no one wants that.