Janesville63.5°

Will Edgerton fire station move or expand?

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
June 9, 2010
— The Edgerton Fire District is studying a real estate deal that could move the city’s fire station to a vacant building in the city’s north end business park.

The building, which housed vehicle detailer Large Format Digital until the business left in March, is on three acres at 111 Interstate Blvd., about a mile north of the current fire station at 621 N. Main St.


The fire district has been eyeing the property since April, when its owners listed it for sale for $799,000, officials said.


The fire district's interest in the relocation comes even as it seeks federal stimulus funds for a $550,000 expansion to parking and vehicle storage at its current fire station.


Edgerton Fire Chief Brian Demrow said the expansion was slated within the next three years, but the property at the current fire station has limited space.


“We started looking at (the business park) site because there’s room to expand out there. At the fire station we have, once we add on, there’s no more growing anywhere. You’re landlocked,” he said.


Demrow said the fire district could outgrow the current station in 20 years, but he said consultants estimate the business park site has enough space for 50 years.


A feasibility study on the possible move will be completed in early July, Demrow said.


Overall, Edgerton's fire district covers 100 square miles, but the bulk of its emergency calls are in Edgerton city limits and on adjacent stretches of Interstate 90/39, Demrow said.


He said a move to the business park would increase response times to some parts of Edgerton and southern parts of the district's service area but would improve response times for vehicle accidents on the Interstate.


At 15,000 square feet, Demrow said the vacant business park building is big enough to house the fire district’s entire fleet, but he said its interior would need alterations for meeting and training rooms as well as a staff kitchen and dormitory. He said the site also would need increased parking and a radio tower.


“This is all part of looking into whether or not we can afford it,” Demrow said.


A preliminary report by General Engineering Co., Portage, shows improvements to the business park building and site could total $330,000. Combined with its purchase price, it could cost as much as $1 million for the fire district to buy and retrofit the property, the report said.


The fire district is tax-exempt, and the city has no agreement with the business park property’s owners that would require the fire district to pay taxes on the property, City Administrator Ramona Flanigan said.


Ron Webb, a city alderman and a member of the fire district commission, told the Gazette he doesn't support turning the vacant property into a fire station because he says it would shrink the city’s tax base.


“That’s a prime useable building for just about anything,” Webb said. “As far as the city goes, the best thing is not to take it off the tax rolls.”


Records show that in 2009, owners of the building paid $27,396 in property taxes.


To move to a new site, the existing fire station would have to be sold, Demrow said.


“If it can’t be sold, we can’t move anywhere. The district’s not going to hold onto two different properties,” he said.


The fire district tentatively values the existing fire station at $350,000, without improvements, officials said.


Meanwhile, the fire district is waiting to learn if it will be awarded stimulus funds for work at the current fire station. The funds could be used only for fire station improvements. It’s not clear if the funds could be transferred to another fire station project.


“We’re not packing our bags yet,” Demrow said.



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