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City working on solution to fire house disrepair

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Posted: Friday, October 7, 2011 12:00 am

It has been more than a year since the Lodi City Council toured the Lodi Avenue fire station on the Eastside and were shocked by their findings: black mold, a vermin infestation and a leaky roof.

During the tour in August 2010, several council members said they would move the fire station to the top of the priority list and get the firefighters into improved living quarters as soon as possible.

But a year later, they are still in the same fire house.

The city hired an exterminator and patched the roof, but there still are rat traps throughout the living quarters and areas where the walls peel back, revealing mold.

The problem has been finding a site either to house a temporary modular station or build a permanent station, city spokesman Jeff Hood said.

"There has been stuff going on the whole time. This hasn't been ignored in the least. It's been a long time, but it's not been put on the back burner," Hood said.

City Manager Rad Bartlam is looking at a site on Beckman Road, and the city is looking at finding another site in the area in case Bartlam cannot reach an agreement, Hood said.

Division Chief Aimee New said she has been kept up to date on the negotiations.

"We hoped it would be a quicker process. But we are being patient and want to find the best solution," she said.

New said the Lodi Avenue location is well-suited for a fire station.

"It's centrally located, and it is easy to get onto the freeway and go up and down on Cherokee Lane," New said.

The city needs another site because a temporary building and construction crews could not both operate at the Lodi Avenue location, said Brad Doell, Lodi Firefighters Association president.

The firefighters are being patient because they know that city staff is dedicated to figuring out a solution, Doell said.

"The city has done a great job of keeping us informed so we don't get the feeling that they have swept us under the mat, or that (we were) the 'flavor of the month' and we are out of sight, out of mind," he said.

The city has made some changes at the station to make it more inhabitable. An exterminator came out and set traps for the rats, and three trees were cut down near the station because they attracted the vermin.

All of the drywall in the exercise room was ripped out because it had mold on it. There also were repairs on the roof to prevent leaking in the dormitory and the apparatus bay, where the fire truck is housed.

But it is unclear whether the repairs will hold when they face this winter's rain. There are rips at the seams in the ceiling and at least one location where sunshine is peeking through the roof.

"Only time will tell when the rain comes if it is good enough to hold," New said.

The city picked out a temporary modular station in September 2010. The firefighters will live in a portable firehouse for about two years while the permanent station is constructed, Hood said. The temporary station is 24-by-60 feet and is three modules.

"We identified the solution pretty quickly, but the problem has been finding the right location for it," Hood said.

Councilman Larry Hansen said he is discouraged that it has taken so long, but knows that Bartlam has continuously been working on it. Because the station is in an industrial area, there are limited options.

"It's all about where the station is built, and that process is unfortunately bogged down," Hansen said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodi-news.com.

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