By George Slaughter
Katy city officials are smiling today, for good reason, about Wednesday’s groundbreaking for a second fire station.
The new station is to be built at Bell Patna Drive and Katy Mills Circle, near Katy Mills Mall. It will be a three-bay, approximately 14,000 square-foot structure. It has a guaranteed maximum price of $3,650,828. The station is expected to be finished within a year.
In an interview following Monday’s city council meeting, Mayor Chuck Brawner was clearly excited about Wednesday’s groundbreaking.
“This has been in the works for so long,” Brawner said. “I was ready for it to start last Monday, but what do we have, but a week of rain. I thought and wondered, what was going on here.”
Brawner said it would be great to watch the station finally going up.
“For me personally, it’s finally here and I can see the dirt turning Wednesday,” Brawner said.
To staff the station, the city applied for, and received, a $2,181,579 federal grant.
The grant, known as a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant, is awarded from the Department of Homeland Security. According to the FEMA web site, SAFER was “created to funding directly to five departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations in order to help them increase the number of trained “front line” firefighters available in their communities.”
The funds will be received over a three-year period, and used for the hiring of 16 new firefighters for the city.
Katy Fire Chief Russell Wilson said Monday that the city extended an offer to the 16th firefighter over the weekend, and that the city came in before the deadline to hire the new firefighters as required by the grant.
Having the new firefighters on staff before the new station opens gives the city time to train and get everyone up to snuff, Wilson said.
“There are some of them still in paramedic school,” Wilson said. “So hopefully, when that station opens up we’ll be ready to rock and roll.”
The city overcame some unexpected obstacles to get to this point.
The original station site was to have been on the south side of Kingsland Boulevard and west of Pin Oak Road. It flooded in April 2016, when 12-17 inches of rain poured over the Katy area. City officials became concerned about the site’s viability after the flood, and decided on the Bell Patna and Katy Mills Circle site.
The site features a better location, along with infrastructure items such as power, water, and sewer lines that are already in place for easier station construction.
The area south of I-10 is covered in the meanwhile. The fire department has memorandums of understanding with other governmental entities, such as Harris County Emergency Services District (ESD) 48, for mutual support in emergencies.