FOWLERVILLE – City, county and fire department officials this week celebrated the start of construction on a 18,000-square-foot station for the Fowlerville-area fire department to replace a 42-year-old building that the department has outgrown.
A landmark event on Tuesday morning highlighted plans for a modern facility to cover the communities of Fowlerville and Handy, Conway and Iosco. The department covers an area of approximately 108 square miles and the new building will be near the center of the service area, Chief Bob Feig said.
The Fowlerville Fire Department has relied on the roughly 6,700-square-foot station for four decades, but since 2014, Feig said, the space has become a constant problem for the nearly 30 firefighters in the department.
“The whole building landscape is just not conducive to the way the fire department is today,” Feig said.
He said many parts of the building are too small to function efficiently, including the training area and offices, which he said are very crowded.
“If you would take a minute to walk around here you would see every square inch we have here with almost no storage. Our meeting room is full of storage space,” said Feig. “The ladies’ bathroom has filing cabinets in it. The men’s shower, one of the showers is completely full, we only use it as a shelf. We just don’t have the space to do anything anymore.”
Construction on the nearly $6 million building is slated to begin soon, and if all goes to plan and no material issues are identified, the building could be ready as early as early 2023, according to Feig.
Officials are currently working on water procurement problems between the village and the municipality of Handy.
“Eventually those will get resolved, so there’s hope they’ll be able to move some dirt and put the foundation in place and move on,” Feig said.
The journey to a new building
In 2020, members of the Fowlerville Area Fire Authority, including Chairman Jerry Bell of Fowlerville, Vice Chairman Bill Grubb of Conway Township, Secretary Ed Alverson of Handy Township, and Treasurer Amanda Bonnville of Iosco Township, discussed various ways they could remodel and Modification of the existing building.
“We could put money into it, but it would probably just be another patch,” Feig said.
After inspecting the building and realizing that even with remodeling it simply could not meet the department’s future needs, the fire department looked for a site in the village.
The authority tried to find a location on the north side of the railroad tracks within the village to reduce train delays. Currently, Substation 42, built in 2001, spans only three bays and is located at 800 Fowlerville Road just south of the railroad tracks.
Station 41, which is being replaced, is located at 200 N. Grand St.
When the search for a site in the village was unsuccessful, Feig said, they had to look elsewhere. The fire department bought a lot on the northwest corner of Grand River and Gregory Streets.
“Progress was slow for a few years, but once we found a place to settle, things took off pretty well,” Feig said.
The new department
The new building will have five drive-through bays and will be divided into sections with administrative/office space, mechanical, laundry, additional office, dormitories and toilet areas, according to Feig.
“For the future we have looked very carefully at how long we want this building to be and we want this building to be at least 50 years old. So based on that, we have sleeping corridors that our people could use if and when we go full-time or 24-hour service,” Feig said.
For the time being, the bedrooms could be used as additional storage space.
The new building will be 1.2 miles from the current train station. In terms of response times, it can lengthen or shorten the response, Feig said.
Feig said traffic problems will also be reduced.
“With the commute people are taking home, it’s pretty crowded outside the station until probably around 6 p.m. in the evening, so we don’t have to worry about that on Grand River,” Feig said. “We have a clearer path whether we’re going east or west. We have a route that we can take to get to the motorway from there very easily.”