Concerns raised over new Suamico fire station
By Ben Rodgers
SUAMICO – The Suamico village board was warned to proceed with caution on the construction of the new Fire Station No. 1 at its Monday, June 3 meeting.
The meeting started with a closed session, where the board considered the hiring of architecture and engineering firms for the project, but no action was taken when the regular meeting resumed.
The proposed fire station is planned for the southeast corner of Riverside Drive and Deer Field Lane, on land the village purchased from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
In March 2018, the village board approved spending up to $100,000 on site prep for the fire station, and the project is still considered open with incoming costs expected for 2019, said Jessica Legois, village finance director.
The amount currently spent of that $100,000 is $33,000 for fill delivery, power line relocation and site clearing/tree removal for the site near Vickery Village.
This February, the board approved a space needs study that was conducted by Five Bugles Design, directed staff to prepare a request for proposals for architectural/design work, and decided to go with a construction manager to lead the project.
The total project is expected to cost upwards of $6 million.
It was during the public forum portion of Monday’s meeting where two people were publicly leery of the project.
Ben Schenkelberg, a Suamico-based architect with 56 years of experience and a former two-term Suamico trustee, expressed a myriad of concerns with the proposed station.
“You really are going to have to dig all that out, really dig it out. Not just what they did, that would be fine for a 7-Eleven store,” said Schenkelberg, who also submitted an architectural bid. “But you got heavy trucks, turning radiuses, a lot of things, and once that’s built it’s going to start falling apart and you’re going to be fixing it.”
He also said the site is a marsh and will get drainage from Interstate 41, plus it’s located in a remote area.
“Why start with a bad site?” Schenkelberg said. “We got plenty of other sites we could do, and if we got one for nothing, give it back to the state, take some money and buy some decent property.”
The architect, who has designed multiple buildings on the east coast, said the proposed space of 20,000 to 30,000 square feet is too large and it shouldn’t include room for a training facility, both of which were recommended in the space needs study for which the village paid $11,500.
“This is out of control – it’s way too expensive,” Schenkelberg said. “We can do a better job, find a better site for less money and go forward from there. That’s how I feel. Whether someone else does it or I do it, open the door and start over again.”
Former village president Patricia Jelen also spoke at the meeting and warned the board to exercise caution.
“I don’t know what’s all in that building, but if it’s 30,000 square feet at $6 million, that’s $200 per square foot for a garage,” Jelen said. “That’s a lot of money.”
Jelen warned the board about elected positions being at risk, and noting that after the construction of the current village hall, the house was cleaned.
“Every single person on the village board lost their election after that,” she said. “…The next time they ran after that in an election they were all gone, gone, gone, in one fell swoop.”
Jelen said the public was upset when the April 2014 referendum for the Howard-Suamico School District to construct a pool did not include a district administration building, and the public’s response may be similar for the fire station project.
“A lot of people were furious with that (building), they thought that probably should have gone to referendum or they thought there should have been more discussion about that,” Jelen said. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
HSSD did have funds set aside for the administration building, with non-referendum funds being accumulated and designated to finance construction.
Trustee Dan Roddan, who was running the meeting in the absence of Village President Laura Nelson, said the comments will be taken into consideration.