City to proceed with firehouse design despite questions

Commission doesn’t want to wait for decisions on site, whether county will share new facility
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington Police and Fire Commission on Monday authorized Fire Chief Mark Mitchell to seek proposals from architectural firms for the design of a new fire station and renovation of the existing firehouse, despite the fact that the location of a new facility hasn’t been determined nor has the question of whether a joint city-county facility will be constructed.

Fire Chief Mark Mitchell and Ald. Dan Benning, a member of the fire station taskforce, were tasked with compiling the request for proposals, which will then be sent to at least five architectural firms with experience in fire station design.

That doesn’t mean these are the only firms that can submit proposals, commission members said, with Mitchell noting that he has received solicitations from architectural firms since the fire station initiative has gotten underway.

Mitchell said Tuesday that he does not see the lack of a site or a decision on whether to work with he county as an impediment to the request for proposals.

The firms, he said, will be asked to design a building to Port’s specifications.

“This is still a City of Port Washington project,” he said. “The county wanted to dovetail on it. We can’t downsize or change the scope to accommodate their needs.”

If a joint project is approved, Mitchell said, the design will be revised accordingly.

Commission member Jim Biever, chairman of the fire station taskforce, concurred, saying “I think it’s a case of we’re going to take care of the needs of the City of Port Washington first and then see how it fits into the grand scheme. We’re not going to sit around and wait for them to get their plans together.”

He added that he does not believe a location needs to be selected before a design for the building is created, saying, “You design the building and then you see how it fits on the site.”

However, City Administrator Mark Grams said it’s premature to seek proposals for the fire station now, saying the information may prove to be useless.

“I don’t know how you can send out a request for proposals without knowing what you’re building,” he said. “I know they’re trying to get this going, but I would wait until you’ve made a final decision on if you’re going to get the county involved and where you’re going to locate it.”

The Common Council, he noted, has strongly supported investigating the possibility of a joint facility with the county.

Last month, county officials, citing a need for storage space, primarily for the Sheriff’s Office, proposed a joint facility be built on the southwest corner of the Justice Center parking lot. In addition to the storage space, officials said they would like to  share training facilities with the fire department. 

If additional land is needed, officials said, they may be able to purchase some adjoining property. 

The fire station taskforce, however, has questioned whether there is enough space at the Justice Center. It endorsed building a firehouse along Highway 33, also known as Grand Avenue, with officials recently concluding the former Schanen farm at the corner with Jackson Road may be the best location.

Commission members said the move is intended as a way to get better cost estimates for the project and to keep it moving forward.

“I’m just anxious to get this moving along,” Chairman Rick Nelson said. “These aren’t full architectural drawings, but they’ll give us a better idea than we have now what to expect.”

The $5 million estimate for the fire station was based on the costs of other firehouses recently built throughout the area, and commission members have said needed renovations to the current station could cost more than $100,000.

The task force recommended building a firehouse that’s 15,000 to 20,000 square feet with five or six drive-through bays for vehicles, eight dorm rooms with locker facilities for men and women, a secure EMS supply area, dive team equipment storage area, offices for the chief and officers, conference and work-out areas and a training room that would double as a community room and fit 100 people with an adjoining kitchen that could be used by the public or rented out.

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