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Fire station debate to go silent — for now



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August 18, 2010 | 07:33 AM
Williams Bay — Talk about a new fire station has pretty much come to an end.

Although it could have come up at Monday's Williams Bay Village Board meeting under soil testing of the proposed site, the issue was not raised.

Trustee George Vlach, chairman of the board's Protective Services Committee, said the issue isn't dead, but it's going to sleep for a while.

Vlach said he doesn't feel there's much support from other trustees about either the new fire station or the proposed location.

"There doesn't seem to be concensus on the board," Vlach said. He added he wasn't going to push the issue — for now. Vlach said he plans to revisit the issue later to see if interest can be rekindled.

Within the next month or two, Williams Bay and the towns of Linn and Geneva will start renegotiating their joint protection agreements. The annual agreements usually run from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.

There is no way to know if one or both of the towns will seek another one-year fire protection agreement from Williams Bay or look elsewhere for protection.

"There is some disagreement (on the Village Board) over whether the loss of one or more contracts would affect the size of a new fire station," Vlach said. He added that he personally doesn't believe it would.

Earlier this month, Vlach brought his committee's recommendation to the Village Board that the village tear down its circa 1936 fire station and build new.

The proposed site of the new fire station was Lions Field, at Highway 67 and Starck Street, a baseball and recreation field directly east of the Village Hall. The committee was ready to ask the Village Board for permission to go ahead with soil and bore samplings on Lions Field to see if it is suitable site for the fire station.

The current fire station is owned by the firefighters. But the firefighters are village employees and the village owns the equipment.

The old building is small and outdated, said Fire Chief Doug Smith. He said the parking bays are getting too shallow for the equipment. Smith said the fire department would like a facility with separate mens' and womens' showers and drive-through bays for the equipment. He said the station might also have sleeping quarters, which the village might rent to Medix for paramedics staffing.

The problem, it turns out, is not so much whether the station needs to be built, but where where to build it. The village doesn't own that many locations where a fire station would fit and provide adequate protection for residents.

At the Committee of the Whole meeting last week, Trustee Don Parker said he wasn't thrilled with the idea of a fire station being built on land now used for recreation.

"We don't have that many baseball diamonds in the village, and we want more, but we always talk about taking it away and building a fire station," Parker said.

Vlach said his committee never ruled out village property on Theatre Road. But to put the station out there, the village would have to pave and redo North Street. And there are 400 houses in Cedar Point, to the east that would be farther away from fire protection than they are now.

Trustee Dick Chroust suggested considering the Horvath property site, also owned by the village. Located on the horseshoe parking lot across from the beach and the Geneva Lake Law Enforcement Agency station, the site is secured with fence and is used for storage. Village Administrator Bob Carlson said the property earns the village $9,000 a year in rental fees. Problems with the property are access and that the land may be within a flood plain.

What the fire department is looking for is a central location that provides equal quality protection to all parts of the village.

There aren't many central locations available in the village, said Chroust. "If you're looking for something central, we're sitting on it, unfortunately," Chroust said, referring to village hall.

During the Committee of the Whole, Parker asked how much land the new fire station would need and how large the building would have to be. No one could come up with figures.

Vlach said Monday that he believes the new station would need about two acres. But the size of the new station may well be up for discussion ­— at some later date.

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