Mitchell asks city to fund feasibility study for anotherstation he says is needed to better serve south, west sides
Faced with serving a city whose population is growing to the west and south, Port Washington Fire Chief Mark Mitchell is renewing his call for a second firehouse.
Mitchell is requesting $15,000 to $20,000 in the 2017 budget to commission a study that would examine the feasibility for building a new fire department headquarters closer to residential developments on the west and south sides of the city and using the current downtown station as a satellite location.
Mitchell’s request is nothing new, and he’s not optimistic that it will be funded next year, but he said the need for a second firehouse only continues to grow.
“They hired me to advise them on the needs of the fire department,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing, but I can’t even get out of the Finance Committee.”
City officials have said in the past they understand Mitchell’s concerns but a second firehouse is just one of many projects vying every year for a limited amount of money in increasingly tight budgets.
In 2014, the fire department solicited bids from two architectural firms for a study and needs analysis of a second firehouse. Those proposals, which put the cost of the study between $13,500 and $18,300, were shelved as officials urged the department to investigate a cooperative venture with Ozaukee County.
At one time, officials envisioned a new firehouse and county facility on county land near the intersection of highways LL and 33 on the west side of Port Washington, but the county recently agreed to sell a significant portion of that land and talks of a shared facility have not yielded progress.
“They (county officials) saw we weren’t going in any particular direction, so they sold a lot of that land,” Mitchell said.
The problems with the current station on North Wisconsin Street are its age and size, as well as its location, he said.
By the 1990s, the fire department had outgrown the current station, built in 1968. That left officials with a decision — build a second firehouse or add on to the current facility. They chose that latter.
“They put a Band-Aid on something that needed surgery, and it’s only gotten worse,” Mitchell said. “The addition was too small the day it was finished.”
As the department has grown in terms of services, equipment and personnel, the problems with the aging station have only been exacerbated.
“We’d never abandon this building, but we need a more modern facility in a better location,” Mitchell said.
While at one time the firehouse was more centrally located, the city’s population has since grown and stretched to the west and south, increasing the time it takes for EMTs, paramedics and firefighters to respond to emergencies, he said.
“Our population is growing and our calls are increasing,” Mitchell said.
A second facility on the west side of the city would reduce response times and put the department in a better position to respond to requests for assistance from the Saukville Fire Department, Mitchell said.
“We’re basically a volunteer fire department,” he said. “We’re the biggest bargain in town. We’re not asking for a Taj Mahal, just a modern facility that will serve our needs and that the city can be proud of.”