Consultant recommends building new fire station

Published 9:25 am Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A report released Monday by a consultant firm studying the Albert Lea Fire Department has recommended that a new fire station be built.

The study, by Florida-based Almont Associates, looked at the existing fire station — along with four other possible locations — to evaluate response times, costs and other factors.

The evaluation comes as city leaders are studying the efficiency of the department while steering the city through tight budget times. The firm was hired to get an outside viewpoint.

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According to the report, the existing station at City Hall, 221 E. Clark St., has become too small and creates a response risk with the vehicle and pedestrian traffic caused by City Hall. There is not enough storage or bay space for required equipment.

Fire trucks have to back into the station, and there’s no space for training. There is also problem with diesel exhaust, which can reportedly be smelled throughout City Hall.

The report stated firefighters can respond from the existing station to the core center of the city within four minutes and to the entire city within eight minutes.

Alternate locations explored were 400 E. Clark St., 201 W. Main St., 700 E. Main St. and the former Farmland Foods site on East Front Street.

The report stated while each location slightly modified the response times, the overall times changed very little.

The firm recommended the property of 700 E. Main St., the current location of the Albert Lea Township fire station, as the best site and said it would allow for both a station and training area. Fire smoke training would be OK there.

The report suggested a joint city and township facility be constructed because both fire stations are in need of replacement and each station is less than a half mile of each other.

It should also be built for multiple uses, and allow for sharing by the community for meetings or other public access. It should serve as an Emergency Operations Center during times of disaster, the report adds.

The firm also recommended the former Farmland site, though it noted fire smoke training would be an issue if retail establishments are built there. Pros to this site would be that the land is owned by the city and the station could be incorporated into a combination of retail and entertainment with recreational facilities.

The location of 400 E. Clark St., which would have required the purchase of some occupied houses, was not recommended by the firm.

Though the site of 201 W. Main St., the former Snyder drug location, could house the fire station with a training facility, it was found to be not conducive to fire smoke training.

The report stated a committee should be formed to address the options and plan for a new building.