Fire Station Location Decided
Dexter has decided where its new fire station will be.
At its February 27, 2023, meeting, the Dexter City Council voted to keep Dexter’s public safety facilities at 8140 Main Street, either a remodeled facility or a completely new one.
Councilmember Semifero made the motion to designate “the current fire station location at 8140 Main St as the continuing site of the fire station in the City of Dexter and directs staff and consultants to proceed with the renovation and enhancement of the current station at 8140 Main St."
The motion passed 4-3, with Semifero, Keough, Schlaf, and Hubbard in favor and Michels, Griffin, and Aldag opposed.
The decision may surprise many who have been driving by the large sign at the corner of Meadowview Ct. and Ann Arbor St announcing the proposed future home of the Dexter fire station. The city purchased the approximately three-acre parcel several years ago to reserve it as an option for a new fire station location.
With the pending decision on the council’s agenda to designate 8140 Main as the future fire station, four residents spoke out earlier during public comment. All four supported a new fire station at Meadow View and Ann Arbor (referred to as the “MAVD site,” the firm from which the city purchased the land.).
A former councilmember expressed his disappointment that the public safety millage passed last November for a new station didn’t designate a site. He sees problems during construction at 8140 Main, primarily where the temporary station will be housed. Regarding the city’s purchase of the MAVD site, he said, “The whole idea was to get a new site and build a clean station.”
Another speaker said she is a newcomer to Dexter and thinks, “It’s really, really important we build a new station.” She cautioned the council about unexpected problems in renovations. She also expressed concern about the fire station’s hazardous materials next to Mill Creek.
A resident read a prepared statement strongly supporting a new Meadow View and Ann Arbor station, opposing keeping the fire station at its current location.
“I must voice my strong objection to this plan of spending any money voted on at the last election to support a decision keeping the fire station at 8140. To do so will be showing a disregard for all the time and energy spent on this issue.” The speaker continued by reviewing past council’s efforts and his frustration that the matter has circled back to keeping the station at its current location.
The final speaker also felt voters should have had a say in the fire station’s location. He feels keeping the station at 8140 Main is a “bait and switch.” He suggested that because the city’s parks and trails are so popular, the 8140 building could be a great addition.
When the council came to the agenda item, it had a lengthy discussion.
Councilmember Hubbard supports keeping the new fire station at its current location. “I have been told that we would be able to provide the same level of service from either location. So, for me, I had to step back and say, ‘what do I think is the best for the city of Dexter?’”
Hubbard expressed concern over the cost and the burden to taxpayers. If 8140 was emptied, she sees refurbishment of the building as adding to taxes. The council member would also like to compare a proposed renovation at a lower price.
Councilmember Aldag favors a new facility at Meadow View and Ann Arbor. She still has a lot of questions about the 8140 facility—the structure, the site, and the potential environmental impact. “We are better informed about the MAVD site than we are the current station property.”
Councilmember Griffin echoed Aldag. “If, in fact, there are people interested in building new at Main Street, it does seem premature to then no longer continue MAVD because it could be that what we find out about building new at Main Street is worse.”
“The new interest in potentially building new at Main Street, that it’s suddenly rising to the surface of the eleventh hour, to me, I find curious,” added Griffin. “I can’t help but feel this is just another way to kick the can down the road. I’ve made my point clear. I think we should build new at MAVD.”
When asked for his thoughts, DAFD Chief Doug Armstrong replied, “It’s a really big decision that potentially outlives all of us in regard to what we’re hoping to create for the city and for the area for years to come.”
“I have made the comment that firefighters are resilient,” continued Armstrong. “We are currently operating out of 8140 Main Street, which should tell you that we can operate from anywhere that we end up.”
Regarding the renovation of the current station, Armstrong added, “Renovations, I’ve been through them. They’re expensive, full of unknowns. We’ve identified some components unique to that site into that project that don’t seem like they have been fully priced out.”
In a follow-up conversation with Councilmember Semifero, who presented the motion to keep the station at 8140, he said, “The biggest factor in this decision, in my opinion, is the location. We can build a station at either location that will serve the city well.”
Semifero favors the 8140 location due to its proximity to downtown, believing the older buildings and residences are more vulnerable to fire damage than newer ones. He is also concerned about the long-term impact of revised response routes on residential streets regarding noise and safety. As far as having the ability to expand, he points to the stations in Webster and Dexter townships as expansion. He does not envision a scenario where the Dexter station would need enlarging.
“What we do need, which no one disputes, is improved facilities for our firefighters,” he says. “We also need to maintain our current excellent fire response and services. I believe this can and will be done best at the downtown location.”
Semifero recognizes the strong support at the council meeting for building a new station at the MAVD location. But he also adds that many people want the station to remain downtown per the city survey.
“I understand the frustration in the decision of people holding a different viewpoint, and I believe there are good arguments on both sides,” says Semifero. “The opinion of the council by its vote is that 8140 Main Street is the best location. It’s time for us to move forward.”
The next big decision will be whether to remodel the current facility or raze it and build a new facility.