2017-08-03 / Views

Fire halls belong in villages — but where?

In the ongoing discussion over where to locate the next Empire Township Fire Hall, we lean toward the view of the Empire Village Council.

Fire stations should be located within established communities, where possible.

But it’s also up to the village to help find a viable location, and the possibilities floated so far seem far from ideal.

To recap, the present Empire Township Fire Hall no longer fits the needs of the Glen Lake Fire Department, which maintains stations in the communities of Glen Arbor and Empire. The department bought a longer fire truck, which was needed, that no longer fits comfortably in the Empire Fire Station stall. Some space in the hall, which is really a pole barn built with mostly volunteer labor, was converted to living quarters with bunks for EMTs who now are on duty around-the-clock.

The land-locked, spartan fire hall is workable, but far from a long-term answer for the community. The Empire Township Board is considering buying acreage three or four miles east of town and more in the center of the township as a future building site. It’s met in closed session, which is allowed when considering the purchase of land. So far, no offer has been extended.

Supervisor Carl Noonan makes a point when he says more township residents reside outside than inside village limits. He wants to move the fire hall toward the center of the township to reduce response times to outlying areas.

But the reaction comes in the form of longer response times to the village, which includes a business district and in the summer is swarming with people.

Good planning dictates that the fire hall remain in or very near the village proper.

Two locations cited so far by Village President Sam Barr come with problems. Mr. Barr believes that the Conservancy would be willing to provide land that was recently received as a donation and placed in a conservation easement. The location makes sense — on M-22 north of the main intersection with M-72 — but can that bond be broken?

The other is on village park land off Fisher St. It would require vehicles to speed through a residential neighborhood to reach M-22 or M-72. And all bets are off if LaCore Rd. is blocked.

Given a lack of viable alternatives — so far — we suggest Empire Township tie up land for a future fire hall east of the village, if available at a reasonable price. Mr. Noonan says three to five acres are needed. The township has plenty of money that’s earning very little interest in the bank. It would be like buying insurance.

Years may lapse before a new fire hall is built. If an ideal site comes up in the village, then the plan could change.

Because fire halls should be located in communities — if possible.

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