Residents will benefit from the millage request by the White Lake Fire Authority (WLFA) with the construction of a more centrally located and efficient fire station and the replacement of two aging fire trucks with two proposed pumper/tankers.
That’s the message WLFA is communicating for the 1.65 mill, five-year request which is on the ballot for the Tuesday, November 5 general election.
“We are moving our facility to a better location and our operations will be more efficient,” said Chief Gregory Holman. “We’ve got to do better for our community.”
The proposed $2.7 million fire station would be located on four acres of land in the City of Whitehall’s Industrial Park at the corner of Ullman’s and Delaney Drive, at the southeast edge of the city.
That would replace the current 75-year-old (built in 1954) which is located in downtown Whitehall, connected to the Whitehall City Hall.
Holman said when that station was built it only served the City of Whitehall. That changed in 1994 when the authority was formed, adding Fruitland and Whitehall townships to the service area, south and east of the city.
The authority is the 6th busiest fire department among the 15 in Muskegon County.
The department responsed to 1,077 alarms in its 54-square mile service area in 2018, up from 1.005 in 2017. As of July 1, the department is on pace to reach 1,200 alarms for this year.
The current station has equipment bays which are too small for some of the modern trucks. The department’s facility, the oldest station among the departments in Muskegon County, also lacks from basic accommodations.
The current station has only a single bathroom and no shower, no living quarters, and there is no training space, inadequate office space and lacks needed storage.
Now, the night shift crew sleeps at Station No. 2 on Duck Lake Road in Fruitland Township.
Even with a new fire station, Holman said Station No. 2 will be retained because of the size of the service area.
The new station will have a training room, accommodations for responders post hazardous and tragic alarms such as showers, locker rooms and bathrooms. The four drive-through bays will allow for reallocation of apparatus to provide a more appropriate response to alarms.
The new station would be about 13,000 square foot. The apparatus bay area would be constructed of pre-engineered steel, and the office-training area would be constucted of block.
Holman said the new station would be about 5,000 square feet smaller that the one a 2015 millage proposal would have funded if it were passed by voters.
The downsizing and change to less expensive construction materials was necessary because of rising construction costs.
Holman said the proposed location of a new fire station has been suggested by the Insurance Services Office (ISO) which rates fire departments on their ability to respond, impacting home insurance rates for property owners.
The millage, if approved, will replace a 25-year-old tanker and a 29-year-old engine. “Both are showing their age and are eating into the annual maintenance line item (budget),” said Holman.
The chief said the ISO considers a fire truck a reserve apparatus when it turns 20 years old, and after 25 years the department does not get points toward its rating.
The chief said the department has been able to keep within its budget which is funded by a 1.4404 mill property tax.
The new trucks are estimated to cost $384,000 each.
The proposed millage would cost a homeowner $1.65 on every thousand dollars of taxable value which is half of the property’s value. So a home with a value of $100,000 would have a taxable value of $50,000. Calculating the millage, the proposed millage would cost the homeowner an additional $82.50. That homeowner is currently paying $72 a year for the fire authority’s operations.