Two older fire stations eyed for improvement

This past November, the Maplewood fire department welcomed an upgrade of Fire Station No. 1. The new facility, located on the 3M campus east of McKnight Road and south of Minnehaha Avenue, replaced two old stations that were in need of costly repairs.

"It was more cost effective to build one new one," Fire Chief Steve Lukin said.

Roughly five months out, the fire department is looking to bring its two other fire stations up to speed.

On Mon., April 13, Lukin presented a request for a $30,000 feasibility study for a fire stations remodeling project. The council approved funding for the preliminary design work in a 4-1 vote, with council member Marylee Abrams dissenting.

"When I was reviewing this, I had a question as to whether we're putting the cart before the horse," she said, noting they haven't yet discussed the scope of the fire departments' long-term staffing needs.

"I would hate for us to plan for a $30,000 [study] when the council doesn't even know what the future looks like."

Getting to 24-7 may be costly

Lukin explained that the primary concerns with fire stations No. 2 and No. 3 — located at 1955 Clarence Street and 1530 East County Road C — are the shortages of storage space, office space and sleeping quarters.

"In the future, as we put more people in there, we do not have room for more sleeping quarters," he said.

Currently, the fire department has 18 full-time firefighters, including chief staff. There's already a shortage in sleeping quarters because the Gladstone station (No. 2) only has four sleeping quarters and the Hazelwood station (No. 3) has two beds.

The department is further supported by 40 part-time firefighters.

"Our goal is to have anywhere between 10 and 12 on staff around the clock," Lukin said. "It may take us a long time to get there."

Supporting Lukin's request, city manager Melinda Coleman said it made sense to move forward with a feasibility study, even if future staffing needs remained unclear at this point.

"I think it would be short-sighted to not know what those costs are, going into the budget season," she said. "What we're doing is getting a picture of what the facilities look like, so we can start planning for the future."

Study one or both?

At a minimum, Coleman suggested renovations at the Hazelwood station — which was built nearly 40 years ago — be addressed as soon as possible.

The Gladstone station is just 16 years old, but Lukin explained part of the push for upgrading both is to make the entire department more energy efficient.  

Lukin reminded the council that it's a better deal, financially, to hire someone to conduct the study of both stations at the same time. Public works director Michael Thompson agreed that the timing of the study made sense, along with council members Marvin Koppen and Bob Cardinal.

"I fully support this," Cardinal said. "I think Chief Lukin is looking at the fire department in totality. We know we're going to update those two stations. It's [just] a matter of time."

In response, Abrams made it clear that she's certainly in favor of remodeling the fire stations to address the firefighters' needs. However, she reiterated, she doesn't feel comfortable spending money for a study that won't yet encompass the future staffing needs of the department.

Addressing her reservations, Lukin said he didn't foresee the city ever needing more than eight beds at each station. Estimates aside, he assured the council money spent on a feasibility study now would not prove wasteful later on.

"I would say that we're going to look very closely at making sure the designs we get, we are able to add and subtract, based on where we're headed in the future," Lukin said.

Erin Hinrichs can be reached at 651-748-7814 and ehinrichs@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/EHinrichsNews.

 

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