PALM SPRINGS – Palm Springs residents may be left with one less fire station by the end of the year if the city cannot balance its budget.
The city is facing a $12.5 million deficit, and Fire Station No. 5 located on Bolero Road is on the short list.
If Manya Wopschall could have her way, she would keep Station No. 5 — located less than a hundred yards from her home — open at all costs.
“I was walking my dog. I tripped on the sidewalk and broke my hand. So, we’d like to keep them here,” she says.
But Palm Springs has reasons to possibly shut down the station. It is not cost effective. It takes about $500,000 to operate it, among other things.
“Station No. 5 has the least number of calls in the city,” says City Manager David Ready. “Those firefighters are not being laid off. They’re being deployed to other stations to help maintain the response time.”
But some residents say it just does not make sense to reduce public safety. The city needs to reprioritize, they say.
“That’s almost like a sin, considering what these guys do: putting their lives on the line,” says Rich Hoppe, a part-time resident.
The city says public safety swallows up more than 50% of the city’s budget. So avoiding any cuts in public safety almost seems impossible.
According to Ready, Palm Springs is already using up $5 million from its “rainy day” fund to make it through this year. The city can’t afford to do that every year, he says.
The next closest first station would be the one located at the airport. It is about 4.2 miles away from the Bolero Road station.
Another option: Station No. 4 on La Verne way in South Palm Springs located about 3.5 miles away.
Ready says every time there is a call for a fire, two different stations are dispatched.
The city council will decide on Station No. 5’s fate in September when the city will have a better idea of its financial situation. It will review the revenues from hotel taxes, sales taxes and property taxes.
Additionally, the state will know by then whether it needs to take away money from the city to fix its own budget mess.
“Keep in mind,” says Ready, “the county also owes us $1 million in property taxes. A lot of factors come into play. We just need to be ready.”
Manya Wopschall does not think she will ever be ready for that day when Station No. 5 may have to close. She says — many elderly people live in this neighborhood. So, having a fire station close by makes a difference.
Come September, they are afraid of ending up getting burned.