Baileys Harbor Votes to Build New Fire Station at Same Location

In a vote of 100 to three, Baileys Harbor voters gave the town board permission to proceed with the project to build a new fire station at the same location as the current outdated station.

The vote allows the architectural firm Keller to finalize details on the building and put out bids. Once bids are in, voters will again be called upon to vote on the final cost of the project, which a Keller estimator who is reportedly very good at his job has put at just short of $3 million.

Before the vote, Fire Chief Brian Zak gave reasons why the “old and antiquated” fire station needs to be updated, not the least of which are a failing heating system that needs to be replaced, inadequate garage doors for the height of modern firefighting vehicles, no exhaust remediation in the vehicle parking spots and nowhere to wash the equipment but in the parking lot outside.

Zak said the town hired Keller to do a needs assessment for a $1,500 fee that helped identify what a 21st-century fire station should have and what the current station is lacking.

He also explained that the town and the ad hoc committee that was formed to look into the possibility of a new station considered two locations: the current spot on Park Road and a town-owned property on Summit Road near the wastewater treatment plant. A third location near the cemetery on Red Cherry Road was eliminated immediately because of sloping land.

Summit Road was rejected for several reasons, including the rise in ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating for residents living five miles away from that location. ISO ratings are what insurance companies use to set rates for homeowner’s insurance. Zak said ISO reviews are done about every five years, with the Baileys Harbor Fire Department having its most recent review done in April, which brought the ISO rating down from a 7 to a 5 (the lower the number, the lower the insurance rates). 

“Effective October 1, based on the location [where] the station sits here in town, your insurance rate should go down,” Zak said, adding that if the station were moved to Summit Road, the residents living five miles away could expect their homeowner’s insurance to go up from $300 to $500 a year.

“That’s how we came up with leaving it where it is,” he said.

Town Plan Commission Chair Tim Tishler, who also served on the seven-member fire station ad hoc committee, added that a survey by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation found that there were traffic sight problems from the south side where Summit meets Highway 57, and potential icy-road problems on the sloped portion of Summit that meets 57, further adding to the committee’s decision to recommend staying put at the current location.

Tishler also noted that the current station is served by two wells: one for drinking and a high-capacity well for filling tankers. There is also a 12,000-gallon cistern under the floor of the current station. All of these things would have had to have been added at the Summit location, adding to the total cost of that project.

Another plus to keeping it at the same location is that it could replace the town hall as a safe location because the new station will include a generator, which the town hall does not have.

“When the power’s out, it’s dark here, too,” Tishler said of the town hall.

Two representatives from Keller attended the meeting: construction manager Kelly Claflin and architect Steve Klessig, both of whom worked on the Brussels-Union-Gardner fire station in Southern Door.

“Fire stations are our niche right now,” Claflin said. “Keller has done more than 20.” He mentioned that the cities of Fort Atkinson and Tomah are on the company’s agenda for next year.

Keller will now come up with the final plans in order to put out the request for bids to contractors by the end of January. The hope is to break ground in late March and have a new, operational fire station by late October or early November 2020.