By DANNY BOBBE and DANNY DAVIS
Missoula voters gave their fire department a green light Tuesday to expand and update its services to a growing city.
“We’re very excited,” said Missoula Fire Chief Tom Steenberg. “I think the voters realized it’s an important issue.”
The fire station bond issue passed with overwhelming support, garnering over 70 percent of the nearly 11,600 ballots cast. Steenberg praised Missoula voters who recognized the importance of the bond issue and credited the department's strong advertising campaign.
“I think there were a lot of active members of the community who helped us get our message out,” Steenberg said.
The bond issue gives the fire department $5.74 million to construct a new station in the South Hills, demolish and rebuild Fire Station 2 on Mount Avenue, and buy new equipment, including a new fire engine.
A key concern in the campaign was the fire department’s aim to reduce its average response time from 11 to six minutes in the city's rapidly growing southwest corner.
“We’re very pleased that the community realized the importance of response time and the need to grow with the community,” said Jason Diehl, the department’s planning administrator.
The new station, Fire Station 5, will be built in the Linda Vista and Miller Creek area on the south side of town.
Steenberg said that the next step is to draw up plans and advertise for bids.
“We hope to have them go up to bid early next year,” he said. “We’re kind of at the mercy of an architect.”