City designates funding to restore Fire Engine 17 in East Long Beach

Engine 17, an East Long Beach fire engine that was sidelined due to budget cuts, could be back in service by Oct. 1 with new funding identified in the 2020 budget, according to a city memo released this week.

The engine at 2241 Argonne Ave. near the Traffic Circle was shuttered in budget cuts in 2012, leaving a major hole for service spanning from the 405 Freeway, south to the Seventh Street, west to Temple Avenue and east to Bellflower Boulevard.

The fire department has estimated that restoring the engine could improve response times by up to a minute and a half in its service area, and by up to 30 seconds throughout the city.

Mayor Robert Garcia last year had asked city staffers to find funding in the 2019 budget to restore Engine 17, but the engine remained sidelined.

This year, the city has identified the funds thanks to a higher-than-projected boost in Measure A sales tax revenue. Long Beach has identified $9.6 million in one-time unallocated Measure A funds, of which $5.9 million can be used to fund Engine 17 over the next two years.

The city has not planned for permanent funding for Engine 17, but City Council members could explore cost-friendly alternatives and staffing changes to keep the engine online permanently, according to the memo.

The fire department has also applied for a three-year SAFER grant—a national grant program for fire departments—to fund the engine. The grant is pending.

The remaining $3.7 million in one-time funds can be used over the next two years for public safety such as police overtime or infrastructure for Fire Station 9, which closed in June due to mold issues.

Measure A is a 1% sales tax increase approved by voters in 2016 to fund public safety and infrastructure.

It is anticipated to raise more than $436 million for the city over 10 years. Since it went into effect in 2017, the sales tax has produced higher-than-expected revenue.

For the fiscal year 2020, which starts Oct. 1, the measure is projected to generate about $59.7 million, up from $54.5 million in 2019.

Officials have said the increase is not due to economic growth, but rather because it is a new tax that is stabilizing.

The restoration of Engine 17 must be approved by the City Council in its budget deliberations, expected to conclude in mid-September.

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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