I-Team Waste Watch - Wyoming Fire Station
Updated: Monday, November 12 2012, 11:54 PM EST
WYOMING, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - $20,000 in the past year--records show that's how much taxpayers in Wyoming spent to maintain the Gezon Parkway Fire Station.
For their money, they got a collapsed sidewalk, rusted building, broken light, and an empty hole in the ground that was supposed to have a light to illuminate the American flag above.
On the edge of city property, the station is what's putting some passers-by on edge, with lots of exposed nails and dangerous junk on city property, just steps from a new grocery store.
Contractors working nearby couldn't believe the city would allow it to happen.
Firefighters say the broken down wood and concrete have been sitting there unused for six to eight years.
When the Newschannel 3 I-Team arrived, we also found that the door was wide open--to what is the fire training center near the station.
Apparently, raccoons got to come in and see what's around as well.
Documents we obtained show taxpayers paid $2,000 to clean up a raccoon infestation due in part to the door's state.
The station itself has been closed for eight years, and the training center behind the station is used sporadically.
Given the visuals, the economic growth in the immediate area, and the vacancy, one might think the city would cash in to help fund its fire department--but we were told they city would not sell the station.
City Manager Curt Holt says it would be too expensive to replace.
Meanwhile, auditors from the ICMA, a consultant hired by the city, disagree with Holt's assessment that the people are well protected, saying the problems are citywide.
"When looked at in totality, the data reveal that the current staffing and resource deployment model is woefully inadequate to provide timely fire protection to the community (relative to response times," the report said.
A total of five full-time firefighters operate out of only one fire station, 24 hours a day.
The report's numbers seem to be clear that there is a slow response. For all fire units, the average response time for structure fire calls was 8.7 minutes.
The nationwide standard for response time for a fire department--6.5 minutes or less. In Wyoming, the first unit arrived to an emergency within 6 minutes only nine percent of the time.
Holt says it's about doing the most with the least, and relying on mutual aid--a risk/reward situation for taxpayers.
The firefighters we spoke with off-camera said they're concerned about safety all-around.
Wyoming's Mayor, meanwhile, thinks "woefully inadequate" is woefully inadequate.
"We're well aware that we're understaffed," said Mayor Jack Poll. "But the issue is how do we provide the services with the money we have available."
Voters chipped in in 2010, approving a tax increase that was supposed to stave off any cuts.
But two years ago, the city had 26 full-time firefighters, compared to 24 today.
Mayor Poll said that was not a broken promise, because "we didn't talk about numbers; we never said numbers; we said level of service."
Firefighters told the I-Team that they went door-to-door promising taxpayers that staffing would be equal.
The ICMA report says 20 staff members are needed to have an adequate department.
The City Manager believes that more people does not necessarily mean more safety, and says a major change may not happen despite our look at this issue--save for the clean-up in the back yard.