By Doug Erickson
The Wisconsin State Journal
VERONA, Wis. — Work on Verona's new $10 million fire station, a facility that will quadruple the department's space and cost more than any other municipal building in the city, is expected to begin next week.
The facility is designed to handle the fast-growing suburb's fire and EMS needs for decades to come, said Fire Chief Joe Giver.
It will be located on the site of the current fire station at Lincoln Street and Verona Avenue. Completion is expected in about one year.
"We're just crammed into this little space right now in a building designed for a completely volunteer department," said Giver, referring to the current facility, built in 1974.
The department has six full-time employees and 16 paid, on-call firefighters. Those numbers are expected to increase in the years ahead.
The size of the fire station will expand from 10,200 square feet to 41,500 square feet. There are two major reasons for that increase, Giver said.
Fitch-Rona EMS will move to the fire station from its current leased space on Venture Court in Verona.
That will save operational costs and improve coordination between the two organizations, he said.
Secondly, the new station will include living quarters, something the current station lacks. Given the growth of the city, the fire station eventually will need to house firefighters around the clock, which would greatly reduce nighttime response times, Giver said.
"Our daytime response time is close to 4 minutes. At nighttime, when we use paid, on-call firefighters, that goes up to 9 minutes — more than double," Giver said. "Our goal for a city our size is to get it consistently to four minutes or under, anywhere in the city at any time."
The living quarters will include space for up to four interns who would live at the station for two to three years during their studies and work 24-hour shifts to augment staffing and help reduce personnel costs, Giver said.
The new station will sit between the current station and Eagles Nest Ice Arena.
Only some of the new station's footprint overlaps with the current station, so the plan is for the current station to be demolished in stages as sections of the new facility are completed.
That way, the fire department will not need to move during construction. Eventually, the existing station will be completely demolished.
The new fire station will increase property taxes by about $135 a year for the owner of a $272,000 home, the average-priced home in Verona, said Bill Burns, city administrator.
While some residents have questioned the project's price, Giver said the building is designed to be forward-thinking, serving the community for 50 to 100 years. The city intends to stick with one central station to cover the entire Verona service area, not build satellite stations, he said.
Still to be decided is whether the new station will have a fire pole. That option is included in bids as an item that can be dropped or added.
The current station does not have one.
Giver said fire poles save firefighters about 20 seconds on average getting from the second to the first floor.
"It's a bit of tradition that actually saves time," he said.
(c)2014 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)
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