West Sand Lake Fire Department
Fire Station Project
Frequently Asked Questions
Why did the fire district decide to go through this process now?
While the current station has served the department and its residents well for nearly 50 years, clear issues and deficiencies have impacted our operations and present significant health and safety concerns. Recurring deterioration and cracking of the apparatus bay floor, life safety and code compliance concerns, limited administrative space, and inadequate equipment and record storage result in the need for a modernized, safe, and functional facility. A new station would provide a permanent, long-term solution that can support the growth of our department and changes in public safety.
What is a bond?
A bond is a long-term loan that allows entities like fire departments to fund building projects. This would include the acquisition of property, renovations or additions to existing structures, construction of new facilities, and the purchase of equipment or furniture. Bond approval is done through a referendum (public vote) that includes the scope of the project, maximum dollar amount that can be spent, and annual impact on the taxpayers. A bond is similar to a home mortgage. It is a contract to repay borrowed money with interest over time. Since a project of this type is primarily repaid through taxes, a public referendum is required to pass for the project to move forward.
How is the amount of the bond determined before the vote is passed?
At the beginning of this process, we solicited proposals from qualified firms with significant experience in the design and construction of emergency response facilities. Over the past 18 months, we have been working with our architect, MEP, structural, and civil engineers, and financial advisor to develop the project scope and accurately estimate the total cost of this project. Taking into consideration the likely amount of time needed between the vote date and construction start date, our estimate accounts for a variety of factors, including inflation, incidentals, and design and construction contingencies to ensure the project stays within the approved bond amount.
What is included in the process leading up to the vote date?
Beginning in November 2021, we completed an assessment of the existing facility, site, systems, and equipment and worked with our structural engineer to perform a structural evaluation of the station, museum, and community hall. We sent out membership and community surveys to gather public input and develop a program of the needed firematic, community, and administrative spaces within a new station. Using this information, we began to create and refine a series of conceptual options until one final preferred option was selected. As we approach a vote date, the design and cost estimates will be further developed, an environmental quality review process will be conducted, and additional community meetings will be scheduled to ensure our residents can ask questions and stay informed.
Where can I receive more information on the vote date/time and upcoming community meetings?
Information can be found on our website, Facebook page, and in the Advertiser. We will also update the digital signage in front of the station and send a project newsletter to all residents. If you have any questions or comments, please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once the bond referendum is approved, what are the next steps?
Once the proposed project is approved by the community, there will be a design phase of approximately 7-9 months. This phase will advance the station and site design to eventually reach the bidding and construction process.
I have never used the services of the West Sand Lake Fire Department. How will this project impact me?
The West Sand Lake Fire Department has proudly served the community for over 150 years and remains a significant part of the history of West Sand Lake. The ability of the fire district to serve and protect is dependent on a facility that is safe, healthy, and helps recruit and retain dedicated volunteers. As district residents, the responsibility to maintain and upgrade public facilities is shared between the local community and the West Sand Lake Fire Department. Spaces for community events and refuge are also an important consideration to ensure the public can use the new facility.
The size of the proposed new station is larger than the existing fire station. Why?
Our current station does not currently meet the needs of our department, the size of modern apparatus, and our desires to grow and recruit the next generation of volunteers. To ensure our taxpayer dollars are used responsibly and help carry us through future generations, we are not looking at a design that our operations will outgrow within 10-20 years. The project we are considering is designed to support our growth, mission, and community for the next 40-50 years and requires enlarged firematic, community, and administrative space to do so.
How did the department minimize the cost of the project while ensuring all required spaces are incorporated into a new station?
We went through several versions of the conceptual design to reduce the total square footage of the facility while ensuring the community hall capacity remains the same and required firematic and administrative spaces are reflected. To increase storage space without increasing the total square footage, a mezzanine above a portion of the apparatus bay was added.
What will this project cost me as a taxpayer of West Sand Lake?
The total project bond amount that will be repaid through local taxes is $10,500,000. The annual tax increase for West Sand Lake residents is $1.73 per $1,000 of assessed home value.
Why does the proposed project remove the existing museum? How will our history be incorporated into the new station?
We presented two potential options at the community meeting in March 2023. Option #1 presented a design that kept the current museum on the property, and option #2 included a design that removes the current museum and instead incorporates the antique fire apparatus into the bay of the new station. After discussion with our community, option #2 was selected as the preferred concept, as it provides a more visible location for the original apparatus that preserves our history in a modern facility. To further incorporate our history into a new station, we can consider reusing the bell and weathervane or selecting some building materials that resemble those of the existing museum.