Station No. 1

By Greg Means/Beacon Editor

A millage proposal would call for a larger station in the industrial park to replace Station No. 1 which was built in 1954.

The White Lake Fire Authority may be coming back to voters this November to ask for millage to build a new fire station and replace two older fire trucks.

Voters defeated a millage request back in 2015.

However, this proposed millage request will be different.

The fire authority board will be considering the millage request at its meeting this Wednesday, July 17. The public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the city council room at Whitehall City Hall, 405 E. Colby St.

While the expected millage will be the same as in 2015, 1.65 mills, the length of the proposed levy would be only five years compared to the 10-year request.

Also, this request would only pay for a new fire station to replace the 65-year-old Station No. 1 at Whitehall City Hall (115 S. Baldwin) in downtown Whitehall, and replace two fire engines which are 23 and 29 years old.

The last millage called for a new fire station to replace Station No. 1, renovations to Station No. 2 on Duck Lake Road in Fruitland Township and to upgrade fire apparatus and equipment.

Fire Chief Gregory Holman attended the City of Whitehall Brownfield, LDFA and TIFA board meeting last Thursday to request a $1 option to purchase four acres of city property in the industrial park at the corner of Cogswell Dr. and Delaney Drive. That is the piece of property on which the station was proposed to be built upon in 2015.

“We’re outgrowing our facility (Station No. 1),” said WLFA Chief Gregory Holman who requested an option to buy four acres of city-owned property in the industrial park.

The Brownfield, LDFA and TIFA board voted to offer the $1 option to the WLFA.

Holman said this proposed fire station would be different than the one proposed in 2015.

Because of rising construction costs, the proposed station would be built of pre-engineered steel for the apparatus storage area, and stick-built only for the operations area. The 2015 proposal called for a brick structure similar to the fire station in Montague.

The proposed station would also be just under 13,000 square feet in size, about 5,000 square feet less than the building called for in 2015.

The fire chief said the millage request is being recommended by a citizen’s committee formed by the fire authority. The committee included Jeff Holmstrom, a member of the WLFA board, and two citizens from each of the authority’s three member municipalities — City of Whitehall, Whitehall Township and Fruitland Township.

Holman said the proposed building would have a 25-year life expectancy, compared to the 75-year life of a brick structure.

“The cost per foot has increased since 2015,” Holman said. He added that the cost four years ago was $145-$150 a square foot. Now it is estimated at $222-$230 a square foot.

Holman said he has been working with Brad VanBergen of WinBerg Construction to come up with the proposal.

As far as the fire trucks are concerned, the millage would fund a new truck for each of the two fire stations. They would carry 2,300 to 2,500 gallons of water, along with pumps and storage for equipment.

The current Station No. 1 is aging and not large enough to house equipment and full-time firefighters.

The equipment bay is not big enough to house the department’s aerial truck, Station No. 1 lacks sufficient office space and living quarters for the full-time firefighters.

Currently, full-time firefighters begin their shift at the Duck Lake Road Station No. 2, and after performing duties there, drive to Station No. 1 where they perform their clerical duties. They return to Station No. 2 for rest time. Firefighters work in 24-hour shifts.

The industrial park site on the southeast border of the city is proposed because it is closer to the growth area in the community, providing faster responses to more areas.

The fire chief explained that the number of calls for service are increasing annually.

“Twenty years ago we would have 500 calles a years. So far this year we’ve had 641 calls.”

In the ever changing role of a fire department, Holman said 70% of the calls are for first responder medical aid, while only 5% are for fires, and the rest are for vehicle crashes and other assistance.

Holman said if the WLFA moves forward with the millage request, efforts will be made to educate voters on the needs being proposed.