Golden Valley may buy homes to build new fire station, department says new station needed to improve safety

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In an effort to improve safety for residents, and firefighters, some homeowners in Golden Valley may lose their homes to make room for a new fire station.

The “Fire Station Location Project” would consolidate two of their three current fire stations and build a new one — but where it would be located is not sitting well with residents who were recently informed they could lose their homes to make the plan happen.

“It is absolutely our dream home,” Brook Simonson, whose home is under consideration, told city council members ahead of their meeting Tuesday.

Urging them to change course, Simonson said she understands the needs the fire department has, but hopes the city can find a way around displacing families.

“I’m trying to appeal to the human side to everyone on what it means to lose community, what it means to lose dreams, what it means to lose memories in the making because you want to take homes for a fire department,” Simonson said.

The Golden Valley Fire Department says their facilities are outdated and this plan is overdue.

“We just don’t fit in these buildings anymore,” Assistant Fire Chief Dominique Guzman said. “They weren’t designed for our modern apparatus [and] modern operations,” he added about their station.

Asst. Chief Guzman said the department wants to move from a paid-on-call operation to a 24/7 duty crew model to keep up with industry trends — the department says this would not only improve community safety with quick response times, but also help them maintain and retain quality staff.

A big reason they can’t move to that model right now is because the department does not have any sleeping quarters. A new fire station would also allow staff to train at the site, better accommodate female firefighters and make cancer prevention upgrades — including better ventilation along with ways to clean equipment and themselves.

“I think if you’d ask anyone in the department, a big reason why we need to do this is we got to keep each other healthy, we got to keep each other safe,” Guzman said.

Other challenges that the fire department faces are broken down in the city’s Municipal Facilities Study — it points out why the shift to an around-the-clock operation would be beneficial:

“Transitioning from a three station paid-on-call model to a two station duty crew model is critical for consistent staffing and will increase operational efficiency by improving response times by two-and-a-half minutes to four minutes overall.”

There are still other options on the table — including using park land or commercial properties. According to the city, after community input, the city council is being asked to “reconsider utilizing Scheid Park or consider Schaper Park rather than residential properties.”

As for commercial properties, the city says those did not rank well in the “selection criteria prepared by city consultants as other parcels due to response times” — also adding it is a more expensive option.

A major factor in deciding what residential properties are under consideration by the city is the response time for fire calls.

While nothing is set, dozens of homes are under the city’s consideration — including Brian Wade’s home that sits on the north side of the city, near Duluth Street.

“We’re fully supportive of a new fire station, the mentality around why, and then shifting to a full-time model and just a bigger location makes sense. However, we feel that displacing residents is not the right move,” Wade said.

If the council approves the plans to obtain residential parcels, the city said, “staff and consultants will contact the owners to discuss their interest in selling. If a property owner expresses interest, the City would provide fair market value for the property acquisition and relocation costs.”

There have been two open houses for residents to learn about this project and question city leaders. One more is set for Thursday, this one is virtual and starts at 6 p.m.

The city council will address this project during their work session on Tuesday, Feb. 14 starting at 6:30 p.m. No decisions will be made, but people are free to attend and listen.