TWIN FALLS — Voters next month will decide whether the city will issue $36 million in bonds to update its fire and police department facilities — but first, members of the public will have one last chance to see inside the current fire stations.
The Twin Falls Fire Department will hold open houses and tours Saturday, following a similar event last weekend. Public tours of Station 2 on Falls Avenue and Station 3 on Washington Street South will be guided by off-duty firefighters from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The aim of the events is to provide the public with more information about the facilities and the department’s needs in the weeks leading up to the May election, Chief Les Kenworthy said. If the bond passes with at least 66.7 percent of the vote, the city plans to use the money to rebuild its three fire stations and construct a firefighter training center.
“Unless you see what we’re talking about, you don’t get the full vision of how poor of shape our fire stations are in,” Kenworthy said.
The changes are projected to cost about $35.4 million over 20 years, but the bond amount will be rounded up to $36 million. The city council estimates a cost to taxpayers of $74.36 per $100,000 of taxable value.
The plan was crafted with the help of a citizen committee, which studied the needs of the department through the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018. There are safety issues with the current stations, the committee determined, such as inadequate separation between dirty equipment and clean living areas, a lack of decontamination rooms, and failure to meet current ADA and life safety code requirements.
But officials also say the current fire facilities won’t meet the department’s needs as it and the city of Twin Falls continue to grow. The existing stations don’t have enough room to house the department’s fire trucks and other apparatus, and there are no training opportunities available nearby.
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Crucially, for a department that does not yet have any female firefighters but would like to in the future, the current fire stations do not contain any women’s restrooms or locker rooms.
These open house events are specifically geared toward familiarizing people with Stations 2 and 3, rather than the more public fire department headquarters, Kenworthy said.
“Stations 2 and 3 are probably the ones that the public hasn’t seen much of because they’re not open to the public,” he said. “We’re trying to open those stations up, make people more aware of what our need is, so when they’re going to the polling booth they have all the tools they need to make a decision.” Last week’s open house brought about 70 people to Station 2.
“That’s the difficulty,” Kenworthy said, “to get people interested to see what it is that they’re voting on.”
He urged members of the public who are unable to make it to the open houses this weekend to read more about the bond on the
and reach out to the department for more opportunities to tour the facilities. The election will take place May 21; early voting runs from May 6 to May 17.