With $200,000 in state funding, the Wauwatosa Fire Department will be operating out of a fourth fire station by spring, as the Zoo Interchange project reaches deeper into Tosa and bisects the city along Mayfair Road.
The station is to be located in the Public Works Yard on West Walnut Road, east of 116th Street, near the Fire Department training facility.
The temporary base, projected to be used for less than two years, will consist of a heated, insulated pole barn sufficient to hold an engine and an ambulance, and, next to it, a prefabricated housing unit with five bedrooms and a small kitchen.
The agreement was discussed in a special Budget & Finance Committee meeting before Tuesday night's Common Council meeting, and approved by both the committee and the council.
Of the three permanent Fire Stations, two are east of Mayfair, and one is on Mayfair, at the extreme north end of the city.
"They're going to have some complete closures of some major intersections, and it will be very difficult ... for us to get to the west side of the city," said Chief Rob Ugaste.
Sympathetic state grant
The state Department of Transportation was understanding, he said, even suggesting a second year when the Fire Department had initially thought the new station would only be needed for one year.
The money is a grant, with few stipulations, and should be more than enough to build the structures contemplated, Ugaste said. The buildings will be owned by the city, and can be sold or operated in some way after their intended use has ended.
But, as city Finance Director John Ruggini said, "There's no such thing as free money," and heating and maintaining the buildings will be costs borne by the city.
The DOT has asked the Fire Department to be situated in the new station by March 31, which Ugaste said was "very ambitious."
The station will be staffed by four, or sometimes five, firefighters, and an engine borrowed from Fire Station No. 3, at the north end of Mayfair, still leaving that station with a truck and an ambulance. The engine will be staffed with a paramedic to able it to respond to medical emergencies, as well as fires.
The region covered by the new station would be from 124th Street to Mayfair, and from North Avenue down to the southern city border.
"We figure during that time frame about 800 calls" for the new station per year, said Assistant Chief Jim Case.
Alderman Pete Donegan wondered if, with the possible slowdown of the Zoo Interchange project, two years would be enough. City Administrator Jim Archambo said that everything planned for 2013, including projects along Mayfair, are already funded, and will go forward.
"What we're really looking for is to have this in place for the 2013 and 2014 Mayfair Road and Watertown Plank projects," Case said. "After that, when those roadways open back up, we don't believe the main Zoo Interchange project will really affect our ability to get to the west side."
Alderman Donald Birschel said it just made good sense to make sure the west side citizens were protected.
Birschel said he knew some antique car collectors who would be happy to rent space in the pole barn when the Fire Department was done with it.
"It may sound silly, but we could find some way to generate revenue with that building after (the department is) finished using it."
"It could also serve us to store things in the winter for the Fire Department," Ugaste said. "In the spring, and in inclement weather, when were training at the facility, we could put vehicles in there. … There are definite needs for the Fire Department."
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