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Part of the reason no one has spoken up about building a new station is because the last anyone heard about this is during the town hall “previews” of concepts for remodeling the current station four years ago – and, even then, the focus was on layouts and remodeling issues, not much was discussed related to location or even presenting a full, unbiased needs assessment. To top it off, there has been no follow up. There has been little to no information about facilities committee meetings or, now, council work sessions. The city website isn’t searchable, so one has to look at every meeting agenda to see where the fire station was discussed and there’s not detail given for work session agendas. There’s been nothing presented to the community. We haven’t even been afforded the opportunity to hear
from the chief.

Until the motion was made to look into purchasing the MAVS property a few weeks ago, there was radio silence from leadership to the city residents, so of course council isn’t going to have heard much, if any, feedback from the citizenship.

We’ve wasted a lot of time and money throwing darts at options, some of which no longer exist. We’re running out of parcel options and the city has failed to openly and transparently communicate where we are in the process.

The facilities committee has met for years without much communication to residents. Multiple votes were taken but none supported staying in the current facility, so everything was stalled. Now the facilities committee is disbanded, and everything is running through council work sessions. Throughout this process we haven’t heard from the chief who, one, has experience building fire stations, and, two, literally knows more than anyone except the firefighters about the real needs of our fire department.

There is some bias at play here and I don’t think we’ve been given all of the information – and I don’t believe we’ve done our due diligence and even gathered all of the information. Those closest to the current station obviously have a vested interest in keeping it where it is. That makes sense, but we also have a lot of people living and working outside of that immediate vicinity and they also have a say. In addition, unless something’s changed in the last 10 years, we also have buildings downtown that not only don’t have fire suppression systems but don’t even have smoke/fire
monitoring. It makes sense that those building owners might not want the station to move because they haven’t wanted to make a protective investment in their own property and it’s cheaper for them to let it all fall on the fire department and their proximity to the station.

Pursuing the MAVS property is the first logical thing the city has done in the last couple of decades related to our fire station. We’ve lost almost every other property option because we haven’t stepped back and taken a big picture view of the situation. We could have hired (and still should hire, in my opinion) an unbiased, neutral, expert third party to assess our options and report to the residents, not just to council. This neutral party would identify potential locations, provide response times from each location, estimated efforts required to prepare the land for a fire station, a full assessment of the needs and requirements of our current station, and a full assessment of what can and cannot be accomplished from our current building.

In my opinion, if council decided to spend $2M on remodeling the current station, before the remodel is done we’d be looking at other options because we would realize those efforts are insufficient and only good for the very short term. At least if we buy the MAVS property, we have an asset and we buy ourselves an option. It’s a backwards way to go about it, but it’s the position we’ve been put in as a city. We have to make the best of an unfortunate situation.

There’s talk now of sending someone to an upcoming fire station design conference. I tried, several times, to get someone from the city to attend a fire station design conference I’ve been involved with for nine years. The one I’m involved with is run by a non-profit. The board is an all-volunteer board comprised of firefighters, a few of whom are Also architects – several of whom spent their careers working in fire station remodeling and building. The conference coming up next month is run by a for-profit media company and has a bit more of a commercial angle but is still something those who know nothing about fire station design but who are making decisions for our city, should attend.

As the first step, we don’t even know the best contract type to enter into for our needs and this project. It does not appear we’ve done our due diligence or that we’re hearing more than what a very select few people want us to know. We, as the voting public, have not seen any data or analysis or comparisons or plans related to how whatever we do is going to accommodate a larger population. We know, from the Master Planning process, that we can expect our population to grow and we sort of know how and where. This process should not be completed in isolation the way it appears to have been handled over the last five to ten years, especially. We deserve information, we deserve the whole picture. In the meantime, pursuing the MAVS property seems like our best option and is at least a step (and an investment in an asset). Whether it’s in the right direction or not only time will tell.

Thank you,
Marni Schmid


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2 COMMENTS

  1. A step in the right direction, but from what I saw in an article recently there was a number tossed out at $7 million to build a fire station. Seems like that is extremely high for what the Dexter community would need to spend on a fire station. I’m guessing that number is just a random estimate. If it is in fact an estimated number obtained from the Fire Chief or Department, somebody needs to seriously look at what they “want versus need”. No different than the recent discussion at the Dexter Area Fire board about purchasing new trucks. Sounds like the chief deferred the decision on what to buy back to “the guys” who want a particular brand of truck. That particular brand is one of the most expensive brands available, with many other manufacturers offering equal or better quality apparatus for less money. Whether it is a new station or new fire trucks, there should be some fiduciary responsibility (seeking sealed bids based on non-proprietary specifications) at the governing body level. Just because somebody at the Fire Department has “experience” in building fire stations or “the guys” prefer a particular brand or vendor there should be a lot more research conducted on both of these projects.

  2. The building would be a Fire Station and Police Station. There are standard, building codes and needs that have to be planned for if the building is going to last 20+ years.
    As for the trucks, all vendors were afforded the opportunity to show a committee what they could build for DAFD. The vendors were told what was needed. There were hundreds of hours sent looking at bands, vendors and talking to customers. The vendor the committee chose gave the best option. Demo trucks were looked at to same money. The problem is the current building would not allow them to choose a demo. The trucks were too long. The information was approved by the Fire Chief and later by the Fire Board (governing body with representation from Webster Twp, Dexter Twp,
    and the City) If you need clarifications please contact the Fire Chief.