Members of the City of Lodi, Town of Lodi and Town of West Point, along with fire department and EMS volunteers, sat and listened to the results of the feasibility study at the West Point Town Hall Thursday, Aug. 29.
The Lodi Area Emergency Services Ad-Hoc Building Committee has been working to gather information on the Lodi Area EMS and Fire Department with the help of Public Administration Associates to determine if they are in need of upgrades.
Tim Franz, an associate with Public Administration Associates as well as retired Oshkosh fire chief, presented on the results of their months-long study. The recommendations from the study show a new fire station is needed in a new location, along with a need for a small satellite station in Harmony Grove.
These recommendations come after reviewing the services from a variety of perspectives. Franz showed how the fire district’s population is going to increase over the next 20 years, as well as the demand for calls. The total population is projected to increase 2,590 in the fire district by 2040.
The study shows there has been an 11 percent increase for annual calls for fire services over the past 15 years, with an estimated call volume increase expected of over 50 percent during the next 25 years. For EMS, they should expect a 30 percent increase with a total of 900-1,000 calls in a year.
Franz said they also looked at the overall conditions of the buildings to determine if they currently fit the needs of the departments.
“We want to have a building that’s safe, functional and efficient facility for the people that are using it,” Franz said.
For the fire department, he said the building is in “fair” condition. The building was noted as being in need of a roof replacement, HVAC replacement, as well as an overhaul of the electrical system and plumbing.
Franz noted there is a lack of space available throughout the building. He said there’s “inadequate” space for storing vehicles to allow for safe and efficient access and maintenance. Because of the current size of the fire department building, Lodi has limitations on what future vehicles they are able to store in the apparatus bay.
Along with space for vehicles, the study mentions there is also a lack of space for storing personal protective gear, no defined space for decontaminating/cleaning equipment after fires, no vehicle and equipment maintenance area, janitorial or general storage rooms as well as no separate room for breathing air compressor, storage cylinders and filling station.
In addition, the fire department does not have personal locker space or female showers. There is a single men’s restroom stall that also doubles as the janitorial closet. The study highlights the importance of removing toxins off firefighters and to prevent cross contamination with personal vehicles and homes that happens when contaminated clothing is brought home—recommending a space to launder clothing in a decontamination area.
“Based on personal experience, it’s not fun going home at two in the morning and your clothes are soaking wet,” Franz said.
The fire department currently has a square footage of around 5,800. Based on the needs of the building, the study recommends a total square footage of nearly 13,000.
When it comes to the EMS department, the study notes the building being in good condition. There are recommendations to upgrade storage in the building for the apparatus floor and office area but there is no need for an expansion at this time.
There are four possible options for the fire and EMS facilities:
The emergency services can remain at their current facilities and address any immediate maintenance needs. For the fire department, this would include the roof, electrical system, plumbing and approach/apron area to the apparatus bay. The cost would be between $100,000-$150,000.
The fire department could receive an addition and renovation to the current facility, with no changes to the EMS station. This would utilize the parking lot next to the building. Franz said this is a possible solution but would use up nearly the entirety of the parking space, an area that has already been determined as being inadequate for the current needs.
The study says the combination of addressing the current maintenance needs along with the re-purposing of the space to accommodate the building’s needs would be close to the cost of constructing a new building. This is estimated at $1.6 million to $2.2 million.
The third option would be to construct a new fire station. This would also include the need to acquire new land due to the restraints on Main Street. The study recommends a minimum of one acre of space, but that would come with limited parking space and would not allow for future expansion. The total cost ranges from $2.8 million to $3.1 million.
Another option is for the fire and EMS department to combine themselves into one new station. This would require the most square footage out of all the options at over 17,000 square feet. However, because of the current efficiency of the EMS facility, Franz and volunteers did not believe this was the best option. The cost would be $3.2 million to $3.8 million.
Along with addressing the needs at the current fire facility, Franz proposed an option to add a “satellite station” in Harmony Grove. This would be a small facility of around 1,100 square feet to house one fire apparatus.
This was recommended due to Harmony Grove being at the edge of the fire department’s response distance. Because of this, Harmony Groves sees higher property insurance costs from the Insurance Service Office (ISO), which evaluates community’s fire prevention and suppression systems and gives communities a rating between one through 10 based on their requirements.
By adding this station, it could improve the ISO rating for the area, as they currently receive no ISO credit for being over five miles from the fire station. The study shows there are 10 members of the fire department from the Harmony Grove area that could also assist in staffing this area.
Based on where the fire department is now, Franz said it works well for the City of Lodi. However, the facility is located on the southern end of the fire district, which negatively impacts response time to the northern part of the district as well as the ISO rating in that area.
The study recommends constructing a new facility near County Highway J and Highway 113. Franz said this would improve response times to both the northern and western portions of the district. The Town of West Point and Okee would then be within a five-mile range. The downside is this would leave the southwestern portion of the City of Lodi outside of the 1.5 mile response distance—the optimal distance for ISO.
From an ISO perspective, Franz said he believes the fire district would make up for what it would lose in the City of Lodi based on the ISO credit they could gain in other parts of the district.
Franz did not recommend any specific piece of land in this area but said any parcels within a quarter mile of this intersection would suffice. City of Lodi alderperson Peter Tonn said city utilities currently extend out to the Log Tavern and the intersection has the ability to be serviced.
One firefighter, who has been with the department for seven years, said during the meeting the current facility does not have enough room. He said “we have people getting dressed that are pretty much sitting on the bumper of the truck.”
Others spoke out about the inconvenience of the downtown location being so close to the Four Corners and having to deal with traffic. Another volunteer said if the fire department moved their station, a business may want to expand into that location.
Because of the flooding this past spring, people also raised concerns about being in a high-risk flood area. Firefighters said they were prepared to move all the trucks from the fire department if Spring Creek continued to flood. It was noted during the meeting the area around the intersection of Highway J and Highway 113 is lowland and could be at risk for flooding. However, elevation changes could be made to a future property.
Tonn said the city is currently in the process of a comprehensive study on “what happens when a lot of water enters the city.” He said they are gathering data on at-risk areas of the city if Spring Creek were to flood again like it did this year.
After a closed session discussion, the Ad-Hoc Committee and governmental bodies decided they will work to choose a new site for the fire station through a temporary committee composed of the current Ad-Hoc Committee chairs and mayors by the end of this summer.