2016-10-13 / Life in Leelanau

Leland fire stations the result of planning, community support

One station concept rejected
By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


KEN TIETJE, who has been an on-call firefighter for 45 years, built tables for each fire station that incorporate the new fire department logo. One table has legs made from an old metal ladder taken off a fire truck, while the other has legs fashioned from fire hose. Tietje is shown with Rick Royston, fire chief. KEN TIETJE, who has been an on-call firefighter for 45 years, built tables for each fire station that incorporate the new fire department logo. One table has legs made from an old metal ladder taken off a fire truck, while the other has legs fashioned from fire hose. Tietje is shown with Rick Royston, fire chief. More than a decade of wishing and hoping and planning and dreaming finally become a reality for the Leland Township Fire and Rescue Department, which held an open house Sunday for its newly updated Lake Leelanau fire station.

About 100 people showed up. The all-new Leland station made its debut in August.

Both facilities have kitchens, sleeping quarters, showers, storage and office space and roomy equipment bays for the department’s fleet of trucks.

The Lake Leelanau station, which will be manned around the clock, also has a fitness room with treadmills and weightlifting equipment so employees can work out during down time.


EVERY FIREFIGHTER showed up for Sunday’s dedication and open house of the Lake Leelanau fire station in their dress uniforms. Also shown are Patricia Soutas-Little, who represents Leland Township on the Leelanau County Commission, and Eric Royston, son of fire Chief Rick Royston. EVERY FIREFIGHTER showed up for Sunday’s dedication and open house of the Lake Leelanau fire station in their dress uniforms. Also shown are Patricia Soutas-Little, who represents Leland Township on the Leelanau County Commission, and Eric Royston, son of fire Chief Rick Royston. Money for the fitness equipment and a new TV for the day room was donated by the Leland Volunteer Fire Department (LVFD), which functions as a fundraising arm of the fire and rescue department.

Leland Township Supervisor Cal Little called the new station “magnificent.”

“That station just shines,” Little said. “It is amazing. It’s a fitting response to a township that has supported the fire department over so many years.”

The department has also supported township residents, and that symbiotic relationship has culminated in the completion of the two fire stations, he said.

Fire chief Rick Royston, who just completed his third year with the department, said those in attendance were pleased with what they saw Sunday and with the two stations in general.

“I’m really grateful to the community for passing a millage to let us do this,” Royston said, adding that anyone who wants a tour of either new station is welcome to stop by.

The planning process to expand or build new fire facilities started in 2008.

That year an Emergency Response Facilities Committee was formed, and about a year later concluded that one centrally-located fire station would best serve the community. The station would ideally be on three to five acres of land and would have sleeping quarters to allow the station to be manned around the clock.

The township began to look for land on M-204 between Duck Lake Corners and Hoeft Road, an area centrally located between Leland and Lake Leelanau. But lots in the target area were few and far between.

The Leland Township Fire Board then took on the project and in 2011 formed another committee — the Land Acquisition Committee — whose goal was to move the project forward and secure land.

In October of 2012 Little, who was then chair of the Fire Board, proposed three options for consolidating the two stations: Update the Leland station to serve as the primary station; purchase two lots up for sale next to the Leland station and add on or build a new station; or purchase one of two lots that had come up for sale. One was off Popp Road; the other was located on M-204 east of Hoeft Road. The most promising site, near Hoeft Road, required hefty site preparation and a new septic, well and other utilities. Excavation was needed to fill in a steep slope.

Costs to build one “super station” — some 18,000 square feet — came in at $4.6 million. An alternate plan that kept both stations open was estimated at about $3.5 million.

Both concepts were developed and presented to the public at several well-attended forums.

Community members balked at the prospect of building one large and costly station in a rural area. They also objected to losing fire stations located in their communities, saying response times would slow to parts of the township if there was only one station. Insurance rates would also go up for many homeowners whose property fell out of the radius of coverage standards used by insurance companies.

Township Trustee Tony Borden and Clerk Jane Keen both said they got well over 200 emails each from people who wanted to keep two stations and only a handful from those who wanted one station.

“I think the outcry was, 'no — we want one in each of our villages',” Keen said.

Despite public support for two stations, the Leland Township Fire Board and Royston had recommended one station. They made their pitch to the Leland Township Board at a standing-room-only meeting.

But the board came down on the side of public sentiment, rejecting the recommendation and voting to keep two stations open, prompting a round of applause from the crowded room.

“Fire stations are like elementary schools in communities,” Royston said. “Everyone likes having their own fire station. I understand that.”

The two-station concept included manning both stations 24/7, but that plan was also rejected by the board, with trustees saying that would require a separate operational millage.

The goal was to get the construction millage passed; manning both stations could wait for another day. Historically, the department had manned only one station — Leland — and only during the day.

The next step was a millage election. In November 2014 voters overwhelmingly said “yes” to a $3.7 million, 20-year tax proposal that passed on a vote of 753 to 365.

The updated plan made both stations about the same size, downsizing the new Leland station and adding more space to the Lake Leelanau station. They’re both about 7,300 square feet.

Bids for the two stations came in lower than projected and the township sold bonds for just $3.5 million to fund the project. The final tallies have come in at more than $400,000 lower.

Borden said he gives a lot of credit for the success of the project to Dave Hunter, who headed up a facilities committee leading up to construction and through its completion.

Hunter laid out a timeline for the project, made sure things were going as they should and kept track of all costs, giving regular reports to the Township Board.

All of the Leland fire department’s fire and rescue personnel, as well as some members of the LVFD, attended dedications of both stations.

And they all wore dress uniforms.

“There’s a tremendous amount of pride in these stations, and it shows,” Keen said.

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