City to investigate building third fire station

MUSCATINE, Iowa–April 8, the Muscatine City Council consented to allowing Legat Architects to move forward with creating a tentative design for a third fire station located on Lake Park Boulevard on the site of the old Iowa Department of Transportation building. Originally purchased in 2018 for $610,000, the City hopes to use the site for the future East Hill Fire Station as well as storage facilities for parks and recreation and the Muscatine Special Operations Response Team as well as to manage storm water runoff on Lake Park Boulevard.

Fire Chief Jerry Ewers contended that building a third fire station would offer significant benefits to all residents of the city. “When you asked me what would be the one thing that would benefit the city, it would be a fire station in the northeast part of Muscatine.”

According to Ewers, ISO, the organization that assigns public protection classes to cities, ranks each city on a scale of one to ten with cities earning a one having the highest safety rating. If Muscatine had a third fire station, their public protection class would drop from a three to two, potentially lowering homeowners insurance costs across the city by 3 to 15%. In order to get nearer to a one rating, Muscatine would require four stations with the final on Mulberry Avenue.

Additionally, a third fire station would improve response times, reducing property damage from fires and increasing the survival of people experiencing medical emergencies. Ewers elaborated that when fire fighters arrive at a fire call in under eight minutes, they can usually prevent a fire from spreading past a single room, causing less damage to the home. For each minute it takes first responders to get to a medical emergency, the patient’s chances for survival drop by 7 to 10%.

An initial consultation by Legat indicated that building a new building on the old Department of Transportation property would prove slightly more cost effective because of the difficulties of bringing an older building up to code. They projected it would cost $3,345,250.00 to build a new station and $3,451,102.53 to renovate the existing building.

Opening the East Hill Fire Station would require the department to hire three additional fire fighters. However, it would require no new equipment, as the department has enough trucks and ambulances that they could safely divide them between each of the three stations.

In response to concerns from Mayor Diana Broderson about increasing staffing, Ewers said the new fire station would better distribute the workload among fire fighters. Because of the more equal workload, firefighters would need to work less overtime, making the job more appealing to new recruits.

Persistent concerns over the cost of the project marked the discussion, especially as voiced by Dennis Froelich and John Jindrich marked the discussion about the new fire station. Finance Director Nancy Lueck stated that currently, it would prove difficult to tell if the project would raise taxes. However, she anticipated that continued careful use of city funds and possible grants could quite possibly prevent a tax increase.

Kelsey Brackett insisted the project include work to improve the storm water issue on Lake Park Boulevard. He insisted he would support no projects without that component.

Ultimately, City Council consented with five yesses to allow Legat to create a design for a new East Hill Fire Station.