‘Groundbreaking’ may be misnomer, but Sun City Summerlin’s fire station soon will be a reality

That "groundbreaking ceremony" for the new fire station in Sun City Summerlin could easily qualify as the misnomer of the year. Then again, you couldn’t call it a "construction-in-progress ceremony," even though that’s exactly what it was.

In case you missed it, they halted construction for about an hour one recent morning to permit the speeches and handshakes from some of those responsible for bringing this vital facility to the senior community. Then the construction workers, who had unassumingly broken ground a few months earlier, resumed the task of building Fire Station No. 107.

The backhoe and crane were already at work while almost 100 firefighters, city officials and interested residents gathered for the "groundbreaking" of a project that was first proposed 3½ years ago. The delay was caused by the fact that the $4.6 million needed to make the fire station happen had been sitting in various sorts of limbo. And therein lies an interesting part of the story.

Former City Councilman David Steinman, a member of the Sun City Board of Directors, explained that funding for the project was the overwhelming concern when he and former Las Vegas Fire Chief Greg Gammon first talked about having a fire and rescue station in Sun City.

"A small portion of the community complained about the plan, but for the most part it was always a very popular idea among Sun City residents," Steinman said. A fire and emergency station with appropriate medical support is "a natural" for a community of 14,000 senior retirees. The only real question at any time was the availability of financing.

According to Steinman, it was City Councilman Steve Ross who ultimately came up with the answer. Ross, who also attended the "groundbreaking," explained how Sun City lucked out when another facility, Fire Station No. 49, which was supposed to have been built in the Mount Charleston area, never materialized. That was because a community of 8,000 new homes, which had been planned for that section of Mount Charleston, became a casualty of the recession, and with it went plans for Station No. 49.

"Greg Gammon then came to me and told me of the need for Station 107," Ross said. "He asked me if the city would allow the funds that had been earmarked for Station 49 to be transferred to Sun City. That was a no-brainer for me."

And so a cadre of public officials gathered for the ceremony just after firefighters raised the Stars and Stripes —- a 60-foot-by-30-foot flag —- high above the location for the new facility at the corner of Del Webb Boulevard and Sundial Drive.

The speakers were led by Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who called the occasion "my first ‘groundbreaking’ " and shoveling ceremony. This was a long time coming. It’s especially critical for Sun City."

Steinman, who never relinquished his passion for the project, said, "This fire station was always on my bucket list." He added that as a result of the actual "groundbreaking," which occurred earlier in the year, the target date for completion has been moved up to March 31, 2012.

Fire Chief Mike Myers, who replaced Gammon in January, revealed that the city will buy a "quint" for the new station.

"That’s one of the newest pieces of firefighting and emergency equipment," he said. "It consists of a ladder, pumper and paramedic unit, all in one vehicle."

Mayor Pro Tem and Ward 4 Councilman Stavros Anthony, who worked hard to guarantee that the funds didn’t wind up elsewhere, spoke of the need for the facility in a community where more than 90 percent of the average 1,800 emergency calls a year are medical-related.

"It’s a shame that there hasn’t been a fire and rescue station in Sun City until now," he said.

Two of the earliest and strongest proponents of the fire station, former Mayor Oscar Goodman and County Commissioner Larry Brown, did not attend the event. Nevertheless, despite a shortage of city funds, Goodman kept a promise he made repeatedly to residents of Sun City, that the money would be available for the station.

And so the official "groundbreaking" took place —- better late than never.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. He is the author of the novels "Falling Dominoes" and "One At A Time." Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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