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Phoenix Police And Fire Push For New Buildings

After years of putting off building maintenance and vehicle replacements, the city of Phoenix is preparing for a big talk involving big bucks.

Earlier this month, the Police and Fire Departments provided an infrastructure update to the Public Safety Subcommittee. Fire says 40 percent of its fleet ranks fair or poor, while Police says nearly 60 percent of its vehicles are in fair or poor condition.

“Our vehicles are going all the time so someone from shift one hands off the keys to someone on shift two and half to shift three so there’s really no down time for our vehicles,” Police Chief Jeri Williams said.

She told the subcommittee the average age of the department’s fleet is nine years and the average age of a patrol car is 7.8 years, compared to the industry standard of five years.

After 44 years, Chief Williams thinks the department’s headquarters is past its prime. She described water pipes coming in downstairs, 29,000 square feet of uninhabitable space in the basement, and a rooftop helicopter landing pad that cannot be used.

“When we built the building, conveyor belts used to take [three inch by five inch] cards and let us know which dispatcher was going to dispatch where,” she said. “We now have six consoles that they have to operate, so I will say technologically that building that we’re in now is obsolete.”

Williams is advocating for capital improvement projects that include precincts, central booking expansion and aircraft hangar upgrades or replacements.

Assistant Fire Chief Scott Walker said 54 percent of the department’s facilities are 30 years or older and 22 percent are between 20 and 29 years old.

Public Works Director Ginger Spencer said city-owned buildings are designed to last at least 50 years and most buildings require major investments like plumbing, cooling, heating, and roofing around 25 years old.

The Fire Department is advocating for capital improvement projects that include station replacements and new stations added in Northeast, North Central and Central Phoenix. 

This fall, the city council is expected to study public safety building and fleet needs and explore financing options, including a bond program.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.