Fire station may be part of city-county project

Port Washington’s options for new facility now include proposal to build on Justice Center grounds
Ozaukee Press Staff

Port Washington officials on Tuesday agreed to begin talks with Ozaukee County aimed at creating a city-county building at the Justice Center that would combine a new Port fire station with storage facilities for the county’s public safety departments.

County Administrator Jason Dzwinel said that the county has been looking at building a structure at the southwest corner of the Justice Center parking lot that could potentially accommodate the city and county’s needs.

“We have a need for storage space and a meeting room,” Dzwinel said. “Let’s see if there’s synergy  between our projects and if we can save some money.”

“I think it’s worth having the discussion,” said Ald. Dan Benning, a member of the city’s fire station taskforce and the Finance and License Committee.

The Finance and License Committee and the Common Council, which were slated to begin talking about a location and funding for a new fire station Tuesday, agreed to open talks with the county.

Port Washington public safety officials have been talking about the need for a second fire station for years, and a task force appointed by Mayor Marty Becker earlier this year recommended building a $5 million fire station off Highway 33, also known as Grand Avenue, saying the facility is necessary to ensure public safety, particularly for people living on the city’s west side.

Dzwinel said he’s talked to Sheriff Jim Johnson and County Board Chairman Lee Schlenvogt about the project and they are open to the possibility of a joint project.

The county has been looking at spots to build a storage facility for some time, Dzwinel said, noting they need space to store vehicles such as the SWAT team command center and the rescue boat.

That equipment is currently stored in a number of locations, Rick Nelson, a member of the city’s Police and Fire Commission and a county supervisor who’s a member of the Public Safety Committee, said.

Dzwinel said he has been keeping an eye on Port’s work toward a new firehouse and decided to see if there was a possibility to work together and meet the needs of both the city and county.

The county hasn’t decided how much space it might need, he said, but Nelson suggested three or four bays would be adequate.

Officials noted the Justice Center site isn’t far from the two sites the city has been eyeing for a new fire station — a lot at the corner of highways 33 and LL and the former Schanen farm at the corner of Highway 33 and Jackson Road — and has direct access to Highway LL.

It’s also on the west side of the railroad tracks — something that’s been a priority for the city — although City Administrator Mark Grams noted it is farther south than officials have been looking. 

The parking lot is a good site, Grams noted.

“It’s two-thirds empty most of the time,” he said, and not too far away from the Highway 33 corridor the city has been eying and also has easy access to Spring Street, which the other potential locations wouldn’t have.

Benning questioned whether there would be enough room at the Justice Center for both uses. There may be a need to buy land behind the adjoining Goebel Woodwork shop, he said.

Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said it’s important to obtain adequate land, noting firefighters have said they would like to see a training tower built near the new firehouse sometime in the future.

“Nobody really has the facilities that can be shared with the nine departments in he county,” he said. “Our membership is adamant about the need.”

“If we could find something that would work for the county and city, I think it would be worth it,” Dzwinel said.

Even if the Justice Center site isn’t the right location, Nelson said, “if we find something in the same general location, I think the county’s still going to be interested.”

A joint project would likely be easier to sell to the public, he added.

Nelson also pointed out that it may be quicker to work with the county, noting that the fire station taskforce’s preferred site at the corner of highways 33 and LL  is where Casey’s General Store hopes to build and the city would need to negotiate with the company to buy a portion of the land.

No matter what, he added, it’s time for the city to move on a new firehouse.

“This has been going on for 29 years. I think it’s time we do something,” he said.

Ald. John Sigwart asked Dzwinel how quickly the county wants to build a storage facility. “It’s not a five-year project, is it?” he asked.
    Dzwinel said the county has a need for the space but its timing is flexible.

Ald. Mike Gasper said the city needs to make sure that as the potential location for the fire stations changes that emergency response times aren’t negatively impacted.

“As we move more and more to the extreme corners of the city, that’s more of an issue,” he said.

Mayor Marty Becker said he believes the city and county spaces need to be secure and separate within the building, except for the community room, which could be shared and used for training.

He praised the idea of a joint effort, saying, “I think it’s what we need to do. There should be more joint efforts.”

City and county officials are expected to meet in the coming weeks to look at how much space the county needs and whether both needs could be accommodated at the Justice Center.

The information will be presented to the Common Council at its Aug. 6 meeting.



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login