Construction is under way in the city for a new EMS building that will combine the fire and ambulance services, and feature a renovated police station area.
The new building will have enough space for training, storage of the fire trucks and ambulances, stay rooms for volunteers and meetings.
The city’s old EMS space was built in the 1960s, with just a 1999 addition for the ladder truck — so the project has been a few years in the making, city administrator Nick Koverman said.
“We had already started reviewing our facilities and we knew what deficiencies we had,” Koverman said. “We didn’t have a proper space for them to train, or even to conduct a meeting. You had 28 guys crammed into a room that sat 15. They were having to stand up and stand around the walls, and it just wasn’t conducive to good training.”
EMS director Jeff Hardtke said the bays were not tall enough for modern fire trucks, which had limited the department’s purchases in the past.
“When you have height limits, you can only buy certain equipment that fits,” Hardtke said.
“Trucks are not getting smaller,” Koverman said. “It’s really evident. We have a 1928 original truck from St. Charles, and it’s the size of an S10 pickup — and now you look at the average fire truck, which probably averages the length of 45 to 50 feet long.”
Another reason for the new building and the increased focus on training was the North Star fire of 2009, as well as the flood of 2007. When the North Star facility caught fire, there were 30,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, and had that exploded, it would have had a blast radius of nine blocks in the city, Koverman said.
“It was a bad situation that could have been much worse, but because of the partnerships and other departments we were able to contain the fire,” Koverman said.
Hardtke added that some volunteers live outside of town, so the stay rooms that will be a part of the expansion will be a nice addition.
The fire relief service, ambulance association and city electric utility are contributing $50,000 each to the project. In addition, the city is using capital improvement funds.
“The community has been very supportive of this endeavor and very forward-thinking. All of the departments appreciate that,” Koverman said. “It is going to help with a new direction and that’s where services are going, a combined service. It’s an exciting time.”
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