ISHPEMING - With a possible design for a new building in hand, the Ishpeming Fire Hall Committee may be receiving new direction from the Ishpeming City Council at the council's July meeting.
The committee gave a presentation Wednesday at a special city council meeting, going over the process it has undertaken to aid the council in determining what should be done with the building, which is 100 years old and badly deteriorating. Per earlier direction from council, the committee pursued preliminary designs of a mostly new structure on the same site as the current fire hall.
After hearing comment from members of the Ishpeming Volunteer Fire Department, a number of whom were in attendance at the meeting, the council may direct the committee to explore the building of a new structure on a different site.
An artist’s rendering of a potential new Ishpeming Fire Hall. (Image courtesy City of Ishpeming)
Following about an hour of discussion between City Manager Jered Ottenwess - who gave the presentation on behalf of the committee - City Attorney David Savu, members of the city council and members of the fire department, the council voted to place the issue on the agenda for the July meeting, to give the committee further direction as it helps to plan for the future of the building.
"This isn't just a bunch of fire fighters looking for a new facility," said Capt. Carl Underwood. "The facility truly does not meet our needs. There are obvious safety issues with the building we're in now. We would like your support to educate them (the public) that we need an improved facility to better serve the community."
Issues with the current fire hall, which also houses the city's police department, range from a floor that was built to support horse and carriage trucks, not modern-day fire trucks and is currently cracking; a basement that has had water and mold issues since the 1950s; an electrical system and plumbing system that are not up to code; and other significant problems.
"It's the future of the fire hall. I think that's the key. Something has to be done with that fire hall. You can't keep doing bandaids," Ottenwess said.
Firefighters in attendance at the meeting voiced support for building on a new location, if that can be done at a lower cost, which would provide more space for the department, which has become increasingly strapped for space as the police and Department of Public Works operations have also been moved into the same area.
For the July meeting, the fire department is expected to come to a consensus of whether the department would like to see a new building on a different site or remain on the current site, to help give the council some direction.
According to the presentation given by Ottenwess, for a new building on the current site, the city would likely pay $3.38 million - a project that would need to be financed through a dedicated millage. That millage would give the public a direct voice in whether or not they wanted the project to move forward.
"I want to see the people have their say in it and a vote is the way to do it," said Councilman Mike Tall.
Tall did, however, voice concern over the millage moving forward in the current economic climate.
Councilwoman Elaine Racine, however, said she felt taxpayers would support the firefighters and the new fire hall.
"I think the citizens will. The citizens have a big heart for the fire department," she said. "But there would have to be a lot of preparation and a lot of education."
In other action, the council approved a motion to formally accept an Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant for $6 million to help fund the Partridge Creek diversion project. The grant has no local match requirement.
The council also authorized city staff to split the engineering work of Phase Two of the project into two segments - the underground storm sewer and an open-channel stream system. Splitting the engineering of the project allows GEI Consultants and AECOM, the two firms that submitted qualifications for the project, to work on the portion of the project that their staff are best suited to.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.