Williams Bay looking into new fire station
“We learned through that recent study and we knew because of the age of the existing building it was time we had to upgrade,” said George Vlach, chairman of the village protective services committee, which is preparing plans for a new fire station.
The committee believes a new station likely would cost more than $1 million based on plans for a new fire station the fire department had drawn up several years ago.
Officials don’t have a firm timetable.
“We want to move this forward pretty quickly,” Vlach said. “We don’t want this to be three or four years out. We’re looking at a year or two, tops.
“The rationale for building now is that we can borrow cheaper and we can build more reasonably. If we have to do this, then now is the best time.”
The committee needs to select a site, draw up plans and solicit bids. The village board also will need to weigh in along the way.
“It’s something that you wish you could do tomorrow,” said Fire Chief Doug Smith. “We’re taking steps forward. We’re not taking steps back. But it’s going take a little bit (of time).”
The village for more than a year discussed the possibility of sharing emergency services with two nearby townships to save money and improve response times.
A consultant late last year suggested the fire and rescue services in Williams Bay, Geneva Township and Linn Township form a partnership and build a station at Highway 50 and Geneva Street. The consultant also recommended the municipalities split construction and staffing costs.
The village early this year backed out of the proposal because the expense of a shared fire station and full-time responders plus the expense of remodeling or replacing an outdated fire station was too high.
Officials since then have been weighing what to do about fire protection in the village.
“That study found that our existing station doesn’t meet our needs, doesn’t meet national guidelines,” Vlach said. “We cannot upgrade the current station. We need to build a new one. We need to have a station that’s going to fulfill our needs for the future—for the next 20, 25, 30 years.”
The protective service committee has suggested the new station be built in Lions Park at the corner of Highway 67 and Starck Street—a more central location than the existing fire station at the corner of Highway 67 and Geneva Street.
The committee also has suggested that the baseball diamonds and soccer fields in Lions Park be relocated to the athletic facility on Theater Road and that part of the old fire station be repurposed to house the village recreation department.
Officials have received little reaction from the public because little information has been let out about plans for a fire station.
“This station when it’s built is going to be for the future. This station could be the one and only the taxpayers in Williams Bay ever have to build,” Smith said. “We want to make sure that if we’re going to do it, then we do it right.”