Fire Station.JPG

Pictured is the Waconia Fire Station in downtown Waconia.

The city of Waconia has been mulling replacement of its fire station since 2018. Now it will enlist an architectural firm to help identify and evaluate replacement options.

The city council on this month and authorized hiring BKV Group to do a needs, space and location analysis. Cost of the study is agreed to at $8,800.

Under the agreement, BKV will assess the challenges and opportunities around the existing fire station at 26 South Maple Street, as well as determine the best location for a possible new station.

Preliminary discussions about a possible new facility began about three years ago based on the growth of the community and limitations of the current fire station. That downtown facility was built in 1980 and updated since then, but has several limitations today, as expressed by former fire chiefs and current fire department personnel.

Among the concerns: Parking at the location is tight for volunteer firefighters when they are called into service, and the facility itself is limited when it comes to vehicle and equipment storage – also space for training and firefighter accommodations. In addition, there are some building concerns, like a leaking roof, plus safety and regulatory concerns about ventilation from vehicles, with office and training quarters right next door. Also concerns about having to store oxygen cylinders out in the open rather than in a separate room. The cylinders can explode and have caused injuries and death at other fire departments, as shared in earlier building discussions.

During early conversations, it was anticipated that the location of the future fire station would be the old Public Works site located at 1250 Highway 284, south of Highway 5 where much of the city’s growth is occurring and from where many of the fire department’s current crew of volunteer firefighters respond to emergency calls. The vision at the time was a new fire station there also would serve as a visual architectural presence on the south entrance to the community.

Since 2018 and a few leadership changes, the fire station project has been continually pushed back, although a new fire station remains in the city’s long term strategic plan, according to city officials. Funds have been appropriated over the past several years to cover the project, with initial cost estimates ranging from $6-8 million.

Now, the city will proceed with a formal study to keep the project moving forward. The analysis agreed to Monday is intended help city staff and council members make an informed decision on the needs of the fire department and the best approach to serve the community.

The city’s assistant fire chiefs, finance director and interim city administrator, with the support of the city council, interviewed three architectural firms, landing on BKV Group based on its experience working with other fire departments.

The evaluation will investigate current deficiencies of the existing fire station, determine the size and needs of a more functional facility, and propose options and costs to renovate or replace the building, according to BKV representative Bruce Schwartzman. BKV also will evaluate the old Public Works site and well as other potential new building location sites.

The study is expected to take 4-5 months, with a preliminary update anticipated in June and final report to city staff and council scheduled for early October.

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