The La Crosse Fire Department has picked out an ideal location for a new South Side fire station, but fire chief Ken Gilliam says there are still some hurdles to leap before finalizing a plan.
The city has filed a request to rezone 5248 S. 33rd St., located at 33rd Street and Mormon Coulee Road, to allow for a fire station. The empty lot is currently zoned traditional neighborhood development and would need to be public/semi-public to allow for the new use.
The zoning is just one hurdle to getting a new fire station, according to Gilliam. The city has a contingent offer in on the lot; however, exactly what would be there and when construction could start is still up in the air.
“Hopefully before my time is done here it’ll be a beautiful little fire station there. Whether it’s next year or 10 years down the road, it’s an optimal location,” Gilliam said.
The site is well-positioned to respond to the increase in fire calls on La Crosse’s South Side, and would be an asset if the proposed boundary agreement with the town of Shelby goes through and several acres of the town are annexed into the city of La Crosse.
Gilliam said it would be an ideal spot for a southern station, regardless of whether the city keeps its four-station model or adds another fire station.
At the moment, the city does not have funding set aside for the fire station; however, city officials have recognized the need for replacing the aging and rundown fire stations, and the location was too good to pass up.
“It was a target of opportunity when the property became available,” Gilliam said.
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If the funding doesn’t materialize, the city can always resell the property, he said.
The city is still negotiating with the current owner of the lot and doesn’t yet have a price. Gilliam said the rezoning would give neighbors a chance to weigh in on whether they want a fire station there before the city finishes the purchase. The zoning petition will go before the La Crosse Judiciary and Administration Committee in December.
Gilliam has also initiated discussions with the town of Shelby Fire Department into whether there is interest in a partnership where the two departments could share space and costs in some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement.
“We’re very early in that conversation,” he said.
Gilliam has also suggested creating office space for the La Crosse Police Department inside the fire station.
Meanwhile, the replacement fire station on the North Side continues to be a priority. The capital improvement project budget includes $3 million for the project in 2020 and an additional $3 million in 2021. While he hasn’t found a location, Gilliam hopes to see movement yet this year on the plan to replace the Gillette Street station, which is 80 years old and has cracks in the foundation, as well as other serious problems.
1915: Logan High School
1916: The Cameron House
1935: Listman Mill
1948 La Crosse Auto Supply fire
1950: Heileman Brewery
1951: Swanson building
1954: R.E. Osborne 5 and 10-cent Store
1972: Menard's Cashway Lumber
1980: North Side apartment building
1982: Caledonia Street
1982: La Crosse Garment Co.
1994: Johnnie's Restaurant fire
2002: Ridgeview Inn
2009: Copeland Avenue apartments
2011: El Charro Mexican Restaurant
2011: Jay Street building
Jourdan Vian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Jourdan_LCT.