Nederland prepares for northwest development

Published 5:32 pm Friday, May 22, 2015

City applies for Port Security Grant to aid future fire response

NEDERLAND — Fire Chief Gary Collins has been preparing the Nederland Fire Department to handle any new response calls from the growing business and residential area in the northwest part of town for the last two years.

Nederland City Manager Chris Duque said Chief Collins has been working closely with the city on adding a new substation in the northwest region when the time comes — a time that will be determined by the development itself.

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Ned75logoAfter all, Duque said, the city will need the sales and property taxes collected from the area to offset the costs of a new first responders’ facility.

Nederland City Council approved the second of two significant grant applications Wednesday to aid the fire department with the new substation as soon as the development springs the trigger.

Duque said Collins received the green light to submit his Port Security Grant application, which — if approved — would allow the city to buy its first foam pumper fire truck.

“This particular truck is a 2000 GPM foam pumper, which the fire department could use to respond to any of its industrial calls, as well as for standard calls like house fires,” Duque said. “We’re eligible for the grant because of the industrial customers we have not just in the city itself but from our neighbors. Belonging to the Sabine-Neches Chiefs Association, our fire department helps respond to any industrial customers in our region.”

Duque said the total cost for the 2000 GPM foam pumper truck and its respective equipment is $761,431. If the grant is approved, Duque said, the city will be responsible for paying 25 percent of the cost — $190,358.

“If approved, this grant would allow us to address our oldest pumper,” he said. “We’re using it strictly as a reserve right now — the very last of our backups. This is not a front-line vehicle anymore, because it is so old.

“But more than that, adding this foam pumper truck would put us on the path to opening the substation. For the past two years, the city’s been talking about the fire department adding a substation. While we’re not opening or even building it right now, we want to be as prepared as we can before we get started. You can’t build a substation and have nothing to put in it.”

Duque said the main drive for the substation has always been the development in the northwest part of town — Sterling Ridge, The Lakes of Nederland, The Landing over by the Jack Brooks Regional Airport.

“When we talked about the Homer E. Nagel Public Safety Complex, we talked about needing a substation in the northwest so that we could respond faster on that growing side of town,” he said. “The thought process behind the timing of the substation has always been to use the development as the trigger.

“We’ll need to use the sales tax and new property tax generated by the development to offset the cost of additional personnel, as well as the capital it will take to build the facility. Because we’re trying to meet the demands of our growing population there, while maintaining our low tax rate — 0.591853. We’re very proud of our tax rate, and we want to keep it where it is.”

Duque said the substation — which does not have a set location yet — will be a “very expensive endeavor” between the upfront costs of building the facility and the long-term costs.

“The long-term costs are the additional firefighters, maintenance on the building and its equipment, insurance on the building, utilities, etc. But if we continue to apply for grants like the Port Security Grant and the federal SAFER grant Chief Collins applied for earlier this year, we’ll be able to handle the transition better,” Duque said.

City Council approved the submittal of Collins’ SAFER — Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response — grant in February. If the request is approved by the federal government, the Nederland Fire Department would receive a two-year grant for $600,000.

Collins said the grant would provide enough funds to pay four firefighters’ salaries for the two-year period. Duque said if the grant is approved and the city elects to retain those positions once the federal funding stops, the city will have to adjust its budget for those four additions.

“If we get this, it’ll be a substantial grant for a two-year period,” Collins said. “We’ve got room for them now (in the Public Safety Complex). But if we get this, we’ll still have to add to it when we get the substation in. We’ll need more people to man that station.”

Duque said the city is always planning ahead, but everything about the substation is looking toward the future development.

“It’s never been a matter of if — it’s a matter of when,” he said.

Twitter: @crhenderson90