The Uplands tract, a 7-acre stretch of land south of West Hwy. 290 in Sunset Valley, was eliminated as an option for a fire station in a unanimous city council vote Dec. 11.
With no one from the community voicing strong support of establishing the fire station at the Uplands, the council passed a motion to eliminate the option. The council plans to continue working with the Austin Fire Department to find a suitable fire station location. The city will also work to develop a master plan for the Uplands tract.
The City of Austin provides fire service to Sunset Valley, but there is a need for a new fire station to serve a portion of Southwest Austin, according to City Administrator Clay Collins.
Sunset Valley contracts with the Austin Fire Department for fire protection services, and during the past four years, annual contract expenses have ranged from $400,000 to $455,000. The City of Sunset Valley already entered into an agreement with the City of Austin for a site selection, and the AFD presented preliminary results from its feasibility study in August.
“Sunset Valley is sort of in a sweet spot for where a station would need to be,” Harry Evans, AFD chief of staff, said.
The new fire station would be a single-engine station staffed with four firefighters at all times, Evans said, noting it could also include a two-person paramedic crew. Building the station would require about two acres of land and between $1 and $3.5 million, he said.
If the AFD built a station in the Uplands, response times in Sunset Valley could improve by as much as four minutes, Collins said.
Community against Uplands usage
Mayor Rose Cardona said that when using the Uplands tract was initially being discussed, 23 other options were identified as community priorities, and a fire station was not one of them. Residents also have expressed concern about the noise that sirens would bring to the city, she said.
“I didn't see any emails that were in support of looking at the Uplands as the location for a new fire department,” Cardona said.
Mary Black was among the residents speaking up about the fire station. She said if the station was built at the end of Pillow Road, everyone in the city would hear the sirens. “I don't mind hearing the stadium because that's kids cheering,” she said.
Mayor Pro Tem Rudi Rosengarten said while the city would love to have a fire station in order to have faster response times, most community members have said they want the Uplands tract to be the site of some other type of facility, preferably one that produces revenue for the city and doesn't have a lot of noise associated with it.
While Evans said the Uplands tract would be the “optimal” choice, he said the AFD would also consider building a station on the north side of Hwy. 290.
“We're going to find a way to provide protection out here either way,” he said.