Where should the new A.L. fire station be built?

Published 10:00 pm Friday, June 23, 2017

Morin Park could be the spot for a new fire station for the Albert Lea Fire Department. 

The Albert Lea City Council discussed possible locations for the station — projected to cost between $7 million and $10 million, including Morin Park, Blazing Star Landing and East Main Street. Benefits and drawbacks of each location were discussed.

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Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said the city would not have to pay to purchase the Morin Park property, and he said the site has the desired acreage and presents the fastest way to complete the project. Ballfields at the park would have to be relocated.

Drawbacks of the site include public concerns about not being able to use the park, frequent flooding in the area and the spot being on the western edge of the Fire Department’s desired response area.

There is expected to still be land for public use in the park if the station is built on the site.

Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. expressed support for building the fire station in Morin Park, noting the presence of roads surrounding the site and the lack of money it would cost the city to develop the location.

Adams said the East Main Street location would provide a centralized spot, allow for redevelopment of the area that includes a Subway building and building that formerly housed Domino’s Pizza, as well as provide training space. Drawbacks of the site include needed soil remediation, it being slightly smaller than the amount of acreage the city desires and the cost of purchasing the two buildings.

Second Ward Councilor Larry Baker spoke of the benefits of having the fire station on East Main Street, and he suggested city staff look into the location more.

“One of the pros on that is maybe having some of the area down there redeveloped … I’m not saying that’s where it should be, but I still think we should maybe take another look at that,” he said.

Rasmussen said he did not want the city to purchase the East Main Street site because of its high price — officials think the cost will be at least $1 million. He said he wanted the money to be placed in the building.

Adams said if the fire station was at Blazing Star Landing, it could be next to planned development on the site. Minimal to no site development expense is needed at Blazing Star Landing, and the location would allow for a reasonable construction timeline, he said. Possible drawbacks to the location are infrastructure readiness, the location being on the east edge of the ideal response time area and the site’s possible impact on taxable value. 

Space restrictions at the current facility that is at City Hall are cited by officials as evidence a new facility is needed.

The site of the possible new station is expected to be announced this summer. Bidding and construction is expected in 2018, and the site is expected to be ready for occupancy in 2019. The project is expected to be paid for either with city general fund reserves, bonding or through other funding.

The options could be presented to the public in an open house, during a study session or in other formats.

Albert Lea Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Laskowske said all options meet the Fire Department’s response needs.

“We really don’t care (which) one of the three, we just need space in order to get the station to do what we need out of it, to get the adequate space to function,” he said.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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