Onion Creek Flood: AFD requests new boats in ‘unmet needs’ budget list

One of four AFD zodiac boat crews in action Oct 31st. The Dept wants two more.
One of four AFD zodiac boat crews in action Oct 31st. The Dept wants two more.

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Seven months after four people lost their lives in the Oct 31st floods that swept through Travis County, Austin’s Fire Dept. is formally asking for new rescue watercraft. The request is contained in the Department’s annual list of unmet needs – not guaranteeing inclusion in this fiscal year’s budget.

Asst. Chief Brian Tanzola told the City of Austin’s Public Safety Commission Monday June 2nd, the $229,200 one-time capital request includes:

  • six inflatable evacuation boats
  • two additional zodiac boats (AFD already has four)
  • two personal watercraft

Tanzola also pointed out the request includes the necessary training and personal protection equipment to go with those watercraft as well as towing platforms to transport the boats to rescue scenes.

Commission member Mike Levy questioned the Department’s priorities: “Just to be clear, after the Oct 31st flood the list is still an unmet need and it’s not in the proposed budget?”

“Correct,” confirmed Tanzola echoing the response Asst. Police Chief Brian Manley gave to a commissioner’s question about a staff funding request for the city’s 9-1-1 call center KXAN reported Monday.

The city’s flood After-Action Report released in mid-April recommended funds to purchase new rescue boats and train crews to learn how to use them.

Also on AFD’s unmet needs list:

  • $472,471 to hire 5 civilian workers to implement the federal Consent Decree that amends AFD hiring practices (excludes $200K to cover legal consultant costs)
  • $550,340 to convert 10 part-time admin personnel to full-time
  • $1,037,572 to create two new battalions to reduce the ‘span of control’ battalion chiefs now have to manage
  • $2.1M to build a temporary fire station on city-owned land on Elroy Rd. near Circuit of the Americas race facility – valuable county property the city annexed in the last couple years

Monday, the city’s Public Safety Commission formally recommended to council:  ‘weaknesses and needs that were exposed in the Halloween flooding such as the need or additional boats for the Austin Fire Department be addressed in the City’s final FY 14-15 budget’

The volunteer body also calls for: ‘the 9-1-1 call center be adequately staffing per the needs of the forthcoming report.’  KXAN reported contents of a draft Communications report in late May.

The city manager will recommend funding options to council members July 31st.

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