Fire station discussion resumes
MILTON It's been a slow waltz, but officials from the city and town of Milton say they're edging closer to making plans and a funding agreement for a new, shared fire station.
Talks are rekindling about replacing the 10,000-square-foot station at 614 W. Madison Ave., built in 1973. A draft agreement unveiled by the city last week could have the two municipalities settling on a tentative date for the project.
There are no firm cost estimates yet, but the project could come as early as 2016, Fire Chief Loren Lippincott said.
Attorneys for the city and town are reviewing a conceptual agreement, and neither side will likely move forward until after a meeting of the Joint Fire Committee in December, town of Milton Chairman Bryan Meyer said.
The joint fire committee, a group of city and town officials, would have to approve any agreement.
City alderman and joint fire commission member David Adams said having a long-range date could give officials time to galvanize a financial commitment from the town.
"Things are tight all over, so we felt we really had to get the town's commitment," he said. "We want to make sure that both partners are looking at the same timeframe and understand the financial impact of this thing/"
Meyer said the town has a minimal debt load linked to the fire department, with its main borrowing tied to a ladder truck the department bought last year.
Setting a date also would give the city time to pay down debt on several public facility projects tabbed for budget consideration next year, officials said.
The city has its hands full now considering funding options for up to $1.8 million in renovations to transform the former Dean Clinic building, 710 S. Janesville St., into a police department. At the same time, city officials have signaled their intention to renovate the Shaw Building, 430 E. High St., as a long-term home for City Hall and the Milton Public Library.
The city also is burdened with $3 million in debt tied to the new department of public works facility, which was completed earlier this year.
The potential plan for a new fire department is not the first offered. Other concepts included:
-- A 2010 plan by Five Bugles Design of Eau Claire to build a joint fire-police department. The city scrapped that plan in 2011 because it would have cost 6.3 million, not including land acquisition and equipment or furnishings, according to city records.
At the time, the city estimated the potential cost was at least $2 million higher than earlier estimates. Some officials suggested the cost would force the municipalities to turn to a spending referendum.
-- A 2011 plan by the city to buy and convert the 100,000-square-foot former ANGI Energy Systems facility, 15 Plumb St., to a city services center that would house City Hall, the police department, Milton Public Library and an 18,000 square-foot fire department.
The city dumped the plan this year after a study showed the building would need nearly $10 million in renovations, and that its location would mean traffic problems for the fire department, officials said.
The latest fire department plan would mean that, for the next four years, the fire department would have to deal with a sinking foundation and leaks in the roof and cinderblock walls, officials said. Wall repairs alone could cost $35,000, Lippincott said.
Meanwhile, Lippincott said, the department is trying to make do with a space crunch at its existing facility.
Some of the department's 44 volunteer firefighters have donated labor to convert storage space for department vehicles and equipment in the vacant former public works building next door. That has helped ease a space crunch at the department, which houses both fire trucks and ambulances.
One firefighter donated labor last year to build a second stairway from the building's upstairs quarters to the garage.