Proposal for new Town of Wheatland Fire Department presented

Floor plan of the new station /graphic courtesy of new fire station committee

A proposal for a new fire station for the Town of Wheatland Fire Department was presented to the Wheatland Town Board Monday by a comittee that has been studying the subject.

The committee estimates the cost of the project at $3.76 million. The new building — designed to serve the department’s needs for 50 years — will replace the current 42-year-old station and include elements the department leadership sought to bring the department’s facility up to modern standards.

The 16,757-square-foot new station would be located just south of the current firehouse adjacent to New Munster Park.

TWFD Chief Lou Denko called the proposal an “honest, lean” plan that sought to anticipate needs for the next 50 years and avoid some of the mistakes made by other departments in the region that have recently built new facilities.

Serving on the committee that developed the plan were: Denko, TWFD Assistant Chief Brian Kerkman, TWFD Lt., Jeff Koenen, TWFD Lt. Jonathan Winter, Wheatland Park Department representative Brett Butler, town Supervisor Kelly Wilson, committee Secretary Tracy Denko and James Scherrer, Jennifer Blair and Steven Richard from Scherrer Construction.

Chief Denko and Lt. Winter lead the presentation Monday.

Some of the components of the new station that are not present in the current station include:

  • An all weather area for washing trucks indoors. Frequent washing should help truck life.
  • Storage of turnout gear where it is not exposed to truck exhaust.
  • Dedicate places to wash turnout gear and showers for personnel.¬†Cleaning of gear and people is more important than ever with exposure to modern building materials and furnishings, Denko said.
  • A mechanics bay that will facilitate department members making appropriate repairs themselves.
  • Sleeping quarters. While there are no plans to staff personnel at the station overnight, it may become a necessity in the future. In the meantime, those facilities might be used to keep personnel in station during adverse weather conditions, such as have been experienced this winter.
  • One extra bay that could be used for an ambulance, hazardous waste response equipment and/or a rescue boat.
  • A shared office for the chief and assistant chief and another computer equipped work room for other department members that have clerical duties.
  • A day room, where members can decompress after calls as needed.
  • A training room that could allow the department to house training without having to pull equipment out of the bays.

Parking for members responding to calls will be located in the back of the building and trucks will pull out of the front (west facing) end of the building as designed currently.

The equipment bays portion of the building would be constructed of cast concrete. The back portion of the building would be steel.

The committee proposal presented Monday included an estimated tax impact on a $200,000 property as $160 per year based on a 20-year loan at 3.5 percent interest.

Town attorney Jeffrey Davison called the committee’s financing example “very optimistic” and advised the town to seek an estimate from someone familiar with municipal finance.

Town Supervisors Wilson and Andrew Lois expressed support for the plan.

“I’m very pleased with this,” Wilson said. “Our focus was to plan for a 50-year building. There’s no fluff in there. I am very proud of the work Scherrer and the fire department put into this.”

Lois said “I think it’s looking good. It’s more money than I thought, but what are you going to do?”

Town Chairman William Glembocki was more critical.

“I love the whole thing,” Glembocki said. “I’m just not sure we need the whole thing.”

Glembocki went on to suggest that the plan cut one bay. Denko countered that would leave no room for future expansion and would have minimal impact on taxes by cutting only about $300,000. The space might ultimately need to be added later, at a higher cost.

The board will vote on moving forward with a plan at the next Town Board meeting. The fire department is also planning to host some information sessions so residents can view information about the proposal and ask questions.

Eventually the matter will be voted on at a electors meeting, where any Wheatland resident over 18 years of age could vote.

Exterior views of the proposed new station. /courtesy of new fire station committee

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