Task force begins search for new firehouse site

Port committee likes areas along Hwys. LL, 33, will leave deal with Saukville for politicians to negotiate
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The highways LL and 33 corridor is the ideal location for a new firehouse, the Port Washington Fire Station Task Force agreed.

The group, which met for the first time Feb. 14, noted that there are several potential sites in the area, including the former Schanen farm property currently being eyed for a baseball complex and about six acres near the intersection of highways LL and 33 north of the proposed Casey’s convenience store and gas station.

The task force also mentioned land off Sweetwater Boulevard north of Highway 33, but that land is currently proposed for multifamily housing, and the former Stevlin’s Hardware, although members noted that land is in the Town of Port, not the city, and the $1.5 million asking price is likely to be a deal-breaker.

Sites in other areas of the city were also mentioned, such as the former car dealership on South Spring Street, although that site also has a price tag of about $1.5 million, task force members said.

“I think the city has better ideas for that (land),” task force member and former fire chief Marc Eernisse said.

The Briggs and Stratton proving grounds on Highway LL was considered, although members said there is no sewer service available.

“According to them (Briggs and Stratton), they’re not moving any time soon,” Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said.

Other properties along the Spring Street corridor and along Highway LL south of Highway 33 were also mentioned, but the task force set its sights along the Highway 33 corridor between Port and Saukville.

“I think we’re all in agreement the highway LL and 33 corridor is the place we need to be,” task force Chairman Jim Biever said.

The western side of Port was selected, members said, because about 40% of the department volunteers live west of the railroad tracks and much of the new development in the city is on the south and west sides.

“We need a presence on the west side of the city,” Mitchell said. “The citizens out there aren’t getting the same fire protection as people on this (east) side.”

The idea of sharing a firehouse with Saukville — something floated by Mayor Marty Becker when he created the task force — wasn’t considered by the group.

“We’ll leave that up to the politicians,” Biever said. “We’ll deal with the needs of the city and town of Port Washington, and that’s it.”

Nor should the task force concern itself with financing for the station, Biever said.

“One thing we’re not tasked with is coming up with the money,” he said. “The key word for us to remember is function.”

Mitchell, who has advocated for a second fire station for years, told the task force that he envisions the new fire station as the city’s primary facility, with the existing firehouse serving as a secondary station.

The new facility, he said, should have a life span of 40 to 50 years. It should be a one-story building with four double-deep, drive through bays for equipment and at least six individual sleeping rooms.

That’s especially important as the department hires full-time employees, Mitchell said, noting his goal is to hire three full-time people in the next three years.

Facilities such as a work-out room and training space to attract new firefighters and ambulance crew members and a space that could used as a community room are also desirable, he said.

No new equipment would likely be needed, Mitchell added, noting the existing trucks would be split between the two stations.

The task force toured the existing fire station, where equipment is crammed into virtually every square inch.

“This is almost comical,” task force member Kim Haskell said.

“Do we need to say anything more?” Biever asked. “I think we need more space.”

Mitchell estimated a new station would require a three-acre lot, adding, “Four acres would be a luxury.”

The task force, which is expected to make a recommendation to the Common Council by summer, is planning to tour the Richfield, Saukville and Oak Creek fire stations on Saturday, March 9, to get a feel for what modern facilities are like.

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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.

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