Rapids fire department to begin work on facilities
By Kris Leonhardt
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – In mid-September the Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department will begin work on their facilities to address several issues revealed through a facilities study.
“It really started in the budget cycle of 2018,” recalled Wisconsin Rapids Fire Chief Scott Young. “We were asked, ‘Is there anything else that you need?’
“It was pretty clear that (Station No. 1) was outdated. It really wasn’t meeting our needs; it wasn’t functionable for a career fire department and also, we had our first female firefighter start that spring. It shouldn’t cause issues; we should be able to hire female firefighters. And, it did cause issues – there were bathroom issues and sleeping quarter issues – and having to move people around because of the sleeping quarters and arrangements because of a female and that is just not right.
“So, it was brought up in the budget of 2018 that we really need to do a facility study on our fire stations, looking at gender equality and safety needs.”
In the summer of 2019, the department was given authorization to hire Five Bugles Design to do a facilities study on both Stations No. 1 & 2.
The study revealed gender equity issues, ADA issues, and some safety concerns.
Over the next half year, council members and city staff deliberated over best ways to handle the issues.
“Do we just do a minimum addition here that maybe just adds on some dorms and sleeping quarters, but really doesn’t address the functionability of the station – the limitations we have here. Or, do we do it right (and) do a pretty significant renovation and make this facility hopefully last for decades. Or, do we even look at building a new station,” he said.
“Ultimately, a new station was cost prohibitive at this time.”
In August of 2020, city officials decided to construct an addition and complete a major renovation on Station No. 1.
“(Station No. 1) is getting an addition. There are going to be some dorms; the offices are going to be remodeled. There is going to be an apparatus area added on to the back of the station that is going to house our three ambulances. Then, our current apparatus room will house all of our fire equipment, like our ladder truck, our engine, and our squad and HAZMAT trailers. Some of that sits in the pole shed there; it is really not ideal, so this is going to be a great addition when it is done,” Young explained.
“Station No. 2 is getting a real minor renovation to redo the bathroom up there; it is like an old high school boys locker room.
“They are going to divide that up and add two gender-neutral bathrooms upstairs.
“Right now that is coming in as an alternative bid, because the (Station No. 1) renovation came in over bid, and finally the council agreed to $2.7 million for this station and they bonded for the funding to do this project. If it comes in under bid, then we will look at Station No. 2.”
Young added that bids for the project are due by Sept. 2, which the department is hoping will come in under $2.7 million.
“The week of (Sept. 13) is when they want to start construction,” he said, which starts with securing the facility.
“They want to get the addition – that shell – the block up and framed in by winter, so they can continue to work.”
Completion of the renovation is expected in late June or early July.
Station No. 1 was built in 1982.
“When I started in 1991, we were making just a little over 1,000 runs a year,” Young recalled.
“Now we are pushing 4,000 runs a year.”