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Public safety leaders explain plans for handling Huntsville's explosive housing growth

WAAY 31 found out on Tuesday how the Huntsville fire department and police department plan on handling this growth.

Posted: Jun 11, 2019 10:11 PM
Updated: Jun 11, 2019 10:45 PM

Public safety leaders in Huntsville say they already have plans for how they will handle the explosive housing growth happening in west Huntsville. 

A new apartment complex on Balch Road at Highway 72 will have 250 units. With that development, there are 560 new housing units within a mile and a half of each other on Balch Road alone. 

WAAY 31 found out on Tuesday how the Huntsville fire department and police department plan on handling this growth.

The apartments are no surprise to the departments, and they have plans in place to handle it. However, people we spoke with say they're still concerned.

Brandon Dent lives off of Balch Road, and he is most concerned about the apartment complexes and the possibility of increased crime in the area with more people coming and going.

"We don't know what type of element that will bring, so of course that requires additional police coverage," Dent said.

Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray said the department has been preparing for this growth for years. Part of the plan to handle it includes moving a police precinct to this part of town.

"Those are some of the things we've been designing for years for planning, and they're probably going to come about in 2020, but those are buildings. We need more manpower is what we need," he said.

Right now, they have 476 sworn officers. He says for a city of this size, 525 to 550 officers are needed. The Huntsville City Council has approved hiring more officers over the past several years.

Several people at a public meeting Tuesday night voiced concerns about having their homes protected by the fire department. 

The chief of the fire department, Mac McFarlen, said they already have plans to build a new fire station in the area to help bring down response time. WAAY 31 asked him what the response time is right now, but he did not have an exact number.

"It's still not the response time we want, but one of the biggest issues that we want is we want to get everyone within 5 miles of a station, road miles, so that they can get the benefits of saving on their insurance premiums," McFarlen said.

While Dent still has concerns, he does like having city officials listening to the community and making plans to fix issues they bring up.

"That's the best that you could ask for at this point," he said.

The money to pay for a new fire station and new police precinct is already in the city capital plan budget.

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