Council moves forward with two-station plan for fire department

First station could open late 2015
Mark Ignatowski

Map courtesy SEH, Inc. A map shows the 5-minute response times from the potential east and west fire station locations.

Although specific locations haven’t been selected, the Common Council gave the nod to staff to continue pursuing a two-station plan for the Fitchburg Fire Department.

As the city builds its Capital Improvement Plan, the group tasked with overseeing the fire station building process continues to seek the right sites that will provide fast response times to incidents.

No land has been acquired yet for the two stations – which will be in the northeast and northwest parts of the city. But city officials have narrowed down some general locations and plan to start construction on the smaller northwest station late this year or early next year.

The Common Council met in closed session at its June 25 meeting to get updated on the process and discuss some of the specific sites they’re looking at purchasing, city administrator Tony Roach told the Star.

“We basically got, from the council, the agreement or nod ... to continue to pursue two locations – one on the east side, one on the west side,” Roach said. “We’ve been narrowing the locations down through fire station committee. We needed to make sure council was on board with the two locations we identified.”

The council, as a Committee of the Whole, talked at length about the two-station plan and some of the potential construction costs and types at its May meeting.

Station location

Picking a new spot – or spots – for the fire department has taken nearly half a decade. The city began the process with a space needs study that was completed in 2009. That study by SEH, Inc. indicated that a two-station model would fit the department’s needs.

The city’s continued growth in the northeast part of the city and the development along the northwest meant that relocation of at least one station was needed.

The economic downturn around 2009 pushed the city’s plans back a few years as development slowed and the burden of two new stations would have been too much for taxpayers, Ald. Carol Poole (Dist. 1) told the council in May.

The city revisited that space needs study as it plans for the new stations in the coming years and found that the results still applied.

In March the city’s committee had narrowed down locations for the stations, but has not yet finalized those specific sites.

For the northeast station, the committee favored a 13-acre site near Ninebark Drive and Syene Road and a 20-acre site near Syene Road and West Clayton Road. Both sites are close to the North Fish Hatchery Road corridor, though the first site has proposed residential areas nearby and the second site is not served by city water or sewer services.

The northwest sites favored by the group were:

• Market Place and Executive Drive
• Spoke Drive north of McKee Road
• South side of Spoke Drive and McKee Road

Construction plans

The Committee of the Whole discussion also focused on building costs and construction types for the new stations.

The city plans to spend about $11.6 million on construction for the two stations, according to city documents. Another $1.9 million is planned for land acquisition, design and engineering.

The city already has authorized about $9.7 million worth of debt for the stations.

The Fire Station Oversight Committee submitted a request for the last bit of funding to be included in the Capital Improvement Plan earlier this year. The remaining $3.6 million would be added to the budget in 2016 if the request is approved as planned.

Details about construction types will become clearer as the planning process progresses, but initial discussions pointed to a mixture of construction types to maximize space and save money while still having an attractive building. Depending on the location and space needs, the buildings could be made of anything from steel-framed with precast concrete exterior to a masonry, steel-framed apparatus bay with a wood-framed office area. Examples of different construction types had prices from about $175 per square foot to $225 per square foot. The city will likely need about 50,000 square feet between the two buildings.

The oversight committee’s recommended plan calls for designing and building the northwest station this year and next year. The department could occupy that station as soon as late 2015 or early 2016, according to the plan. At the same time, the city would work to acquire land for the second station. The northeast station would be built in 2016 and 2017, with the department moving in late 2017.

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