Based on everything I saw and heard over the course of the five months-long budget process, I thought that all District 8 “assets” made it through unscathed when the Metro Council voted to approve a new spending plan in June. You might recall the view from the chopping block piece I wrote in April contemplating the closure of one or more of the Douglass Community Center, Cherokee Golf Course, Highlands-Shelby Park Library or Bardstown Road fire station. So, it wasn’t until July that I learned – same as you did – about the changes (i.e., “cuts”) coming to the Rubel Avenue firehouse, after all. (Rubel Avenue was not mentioned once that I can recall during the entire Louisville Fire Department budget conversation.) As reported by the Courier Journal on July 3rd, the 1025 Rubel Ave. station is transitioning from an engine company and a truck company to a quintuple combination pumper or “quint” company – and losing 15 firefighters in the process. Naturally, this surprised, concerned and raised questions for me. What capabilities are reduced? What risks are increased? I asked Chief Gregory Frederick for an explanation. The following has been edited for length and clarity:
I understand your concerns about the conversion of Engine 11 and Truck 7 to a single quint company; any reduction in public safety resources can be detrimental to the citizens in our community. In order to reduce $1.7 million, we had to cut 15 personnel or four per day at one of the firehouses. Rather than closing a firehouse with a single unit, like Engine 1 on Grade Lane, which would leave a gap in coverage and create longer response times, we chose to combine two units in what we call a double house into a single quint unit. There are only six double houses in the LFD that house both an engine company and a truck company together, and of those six, Engine 11 and Truck 7 have the lowest combined run volume.
The Louisville Division of Fire currently operates two other quint companies in firehouses that formerly had a separate engine and truck, but were combined into a quint due to budget and lower run volumes: Quint 9 at 3511 Fincastle Road and Quint 10 at 3401 Dutchmans Lane. The quint apparatus has been a mainstay in the fire service for many years, including here in Louisville. While it is a larger apparatus, it is still maneuverable in an urban setting.
The issue of starting firefighting operations is also a concern any time you reduce personnel because it requires additional units from surrounding firehouses to complete certain tasks. However, when there are occupants trapped in a fire, we can still start rescue operations immediately, without delay. The second truck company due into that area currently is Quint 10, Quint 9 or Tower 2.
The Division of Fire monitors our statistical data, including response times, run volume and other important information as we strive to meet National Fire Protection Association Standards and a Standard of Cover in our accreditation process. It is our intent to provide the best service possible with the funding and resources we are provided in order to protect our citizens and their property. I hope you find this response informative, and please understand we are doing our best during these difficult times.
Chief Gregory W. Frederick
I have complete confidence in the Chief and his department. There are 10 stations within a few miles of the Highlands. LFD has an ongoing Home Safety Check program that includes smoke detector checks and installation, which it is reviewing data and maps of areas in District 8. There is no reason to panic but we should all be concerned because the significant increase in pension contributions from Louisville Metro Government to Kentucky Retirement Systems will increase again next fiscal year. Click here for more information on Louisville Fire.
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I am unhappy to announce another (in this case, foreseeable) casualty of the pension/budget crisis, as well: The Center for Health Equity is unable to assist with participatory budgeting this year, so the project is on hiatus in FY 2020. Without adequate technical support to ensure the integrity of the PB process, accountability concerns outweigh the many positives that come from it. Therefore, I intend to revert back to prioritizing Capital Infrastructure Funding (CIF) of planning and projects over operating and event grants, in accordance with the District 8 Strategic Plan; and I plan to publish new FY 2020 Neighborhood Development (NDF), CIF and Cost Center Budgets in the eNews August 14th edition.
This is not the end of PB, however, but only the beginning. The projects funded last year – playground renovation at Bloom Elementary School ($25,000); indoor and outdoor gym improvements at the Douglas Community Center ($50,000); street recycling bins ($15,000); and Speed Avenue driver feedback signs ($10,000) – are in implementation. The McNary Group will present its report on our pilot at an August 29th celebration event. Over the next year, we’ll continue to learn from our first go-round, recruit interested parties and set our designs on the long game. Especially in times of scarcity, a little direct democracy is necessary to make sure government doesn’t become misrepresentative.
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I hope you enjoyed The Cat’s Away (July 3rd) Edition of District 8 eNews written by Jasmine Weatherby. In two weeks, our summer intern Spencer Schumacher will take a turn writing while I am away from the office again. Thank you, Jasmine and Spencer.
For breaking news and information, please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you have a question or comment, please call me at: (502) 574-1108 or email: email@example.com (and copy firstname.lastname@example.org). If you have a service request, please call MetroCall at: 311 or visit Metro311 online. Visit the District 8 Strategic Plan page here.