For the first time in more than a month, Memphis Fire Services was able to cruise through a budget request without a single hint of opposition. Fire department director Alvin Benson was all smiles as a result.
This morning, he and his staff requested using $1.5 million from their capital improvement budget to buy land for a new fire station in the Winchester/Hacks Cross area. Members of the city council's Public Safety & Homeland Security Comittee approved the request unanimously.
Once built, the station will be along Centennial Drive in the Southwind area. It will be financed with general obligation bonds.
In the meantime, Fire Services and its union members are scheduled to appear before the full council later today to resolve, once and for all, their disagreement over buying eight new alternative response vehicles. That conflict began in early January, when the department requested using about $500,000 to buy the vehicles, which officials insist are less expensive to maintain, and more maneuverable, than large fire trucks.
However, members of International Association of Firefighters Local 1784 have objected, saying they would prefer having fully staffed vehicles that can respond to many different kinds of emergencies. The ARVs are only equipped for emergency medical calls, which make up the majority of the fire department's runs. Underlying the disagreement is a fear by union members that trucks will be put out of service, possibly affecting jobs.