Firemen hot over proposed move to former Screw Works

BY BENJAMIN GOHS

Boyne City commissioners are considering moving several municipal operations to the old Federal Screw Works building in the city’s industrial park.

And the idea is meeting some resistance.

“I’m here to represent a committee we formed at the fire department expressing our concerns about the relocation (to) Federal Screw,” Boyne City fireman Scott Carlston told commissioners during their March 22, regular meeting. “We realize you guys haven’t gone forward with that, but we have done a study.”

Officials at the Boyne City Fire Department prepared a four-page report in response to the city’s consideration to move the facility. In it, fire officials discuss, primarily, response times, fire insurance ratings, citizen support and call locations.

“The fire department personnel respectfully challenge the idea that moving the fire service facility to the Air Industrial Park would be feasible or in the best interest of the citizens it serves and property it protects,” they state in their report. “Moving the fire department to the industrial park would be ill-advised. Increased response times will inevitably result in increased property loss and potential loss of life.”

They added, “While it is recognized that there exists a need for a centralized public safety building, careful planning should take place.

Boyne City Mayor Chuck Vondra made it clear that the savings from such a move could be substantial.

“(What) If we can purchase that building at the same cost as building a new DPW that houses three facilities instead of one,” Vondra said. “I’m not saying we can. This is all hypothetical (but) was this part of the analysis that you guys did?”

Carlston said it was not, and that they focused on the health and safety aspects of the proposed move.

According to the report, a structure fire can double in size every 30 to 60 seconds; and reaction time to accidents is also critical.

“The ‘golden hour’ is the time standard whereby a critical trauma patient – i.e. a car crash victim that requires extrication – needs to reach … (the) operating room to have the best chance for survival,” the report states. “The point of the previous two statements is that time is of the essence in the fire service.”

They added, “Moving a fire station to the Air Industrial Park will drastically increase response times to incidents increasing loss of property and, potentially, life.”

According to fire officials, changing the station’s location would more than double the distance from for all 19 firefighters must travel from their residence to the proposed location.

“The fire department is integral to the protection of the downtown business district,” the report states. “Currently the fire station location is approximately two blocks to the downtown area. Moving the fire facility to the industrial park would increase that distance by two miles.”

Further, “While, on the surface, two miles does not sound like a lot, consideration must ale be taken to the additional response time of current firefighters to that station location.”

Officials said during a recent car crash on Camp Daggett Road, the response time would have increased by 10 minutes at least for call time until they arrive on-scene.

“An additional 10 minutes for a critically injured trauma patient can be the difference between life and death,” they stated.

Number of calls responded to by year

2010 – 162 calls

2009 – 139 calls

2008 – 173 calls

The percentage of calls outside the city:

2010 – 64 percent

2009 – 50 percent

2008 – 51 percent

ISO

The report also addressed the ISO rating of the city. The ISO is how a municipality is equipped to handle fire emergencies. The higher the rating, the lower the insurance liability.

“Increasing response times by an average of seven to 10 minutes will, undoubtedly, have some affect on insurance rates,” the report stated. “More research is required to determine the extend of change.”

School Location

The report then addressed the potential affect moving the fire department would have on school response times.

“During the school year, pedestrian and vehicular traffic increases around the Boyne City Public Schools campus,” they state. “Several firefighters, when responding to the station to a 911 dispatch, would be traveling past the middle and high schools 100 percent of the time. Based on run history, fire equipment would be traveling back past the schools approximately 95 percent of the time.”

Citizen Support

The following portion of the report is based on anecdotal conversations fire personnel have had with an unknown number of citizens.

“There has not been one report of a Boyne City resident that would be in favor of such a move,” the report states. “It would appear, based on these informal conversations, that it would be difficult to get taxpayer support, if needed, at a public hearing.”

Further, “Elected officials do have to make difficult decisions. They are also supposed to be the voice of the people. Hopefully, the lack of citizen support would be a consideration.”

Other Considerations

Boyne City firefighters would have to travel through part of Boyne Valley Township’s fire department territory to get to the proposed location.

Surrounding townships could be disadvantaged by projected slower response times which, fire officials say, could create a “hard sell” when asking for additional revenue from townships if and when it is necessary.

Moving to the industrial park would take the former Federal Screw building off the tax rolls.

Fire officials say getting the building ready for fire department use will be costly.

Emergency vehicles would be exiting the proposed facility onto a 55 mph highway instead of a city street with slower traffic.

Vondra asked Carlston to look at the costs and get back to him with the numbers.

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