Residents hope to save 114-year-old BCFD station

Battle Creek city manager: Not cost-effective to maintain fire stations from early 1900s

Battle Creek Fire Department, BCFD, Fire Station 3
A historic fire station in Battle Creek that may be closed due to operating costs. (Feb. 15, 2016)

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Community members in Battle Creek are fighting to keep a beloved historic fire station from closing because the city says it’s not practical to maintain.

Rich in history with cobblestone walls, Station 3 on Cliff Street was built in 1902.

“It’s part of this community and it’s a stronghold of this community and it’s the centerpiece of this neighborhood,” Josh Cushman, who is on the executive board of the firefighters’ union, said.

“C.W. Post built it with the intent of forming an anchor within the community,” James Moreno, another area resident, said.

It has been that for neighbors, not only allowing firefighters to respond to emergencies quickly but also serving as a safe haven for kids, community members say.

“One, it’s a safe place. Two, it’s an area if they just need to talk to somebody, they can do that,” Moreno said.

He’s also concerned response times may lag if the station were to close.

That’s why he is organizing a petition — now 500 signatures strong — to keep Station 3 open.

The community first heard news of the potential closure of several fire stations a few months ago when the city held community conversations.

“No decisions had been made. We wanted to hear the public input about the stations,” City Manager Rebecca Fluery explained the meetings. “What do you think? Do you like where they’re at, do you not?”

Fluery said the conversations were prompted by an eight-month study of the state of the city’s fire stations designed to give Fire Chief David Schmaltz clarity on what to do with buildings that aren’t up to code.

>>PDF: BCFD facilities and operations study

The study suggests it’s not worth it for taxpayers to foot the bill for upkeep of fire houses dating back to the early 1900s.

“To bring these older stations up to code to modern standards — which we really need — it’s not cost-effective to those stations,” Fluery said.

She said the buildings are not compatible with modern-day equipment and in some cases are not safe for crews.

One plan to replace Station 3 is to combine its operations with Station 1 in a new facility that would be located on Main Street near Dickman Road.

Battle Creek Fire Department Station 1. (Feb. 15, 2016)
Battle Creek Fire Department Station 1.

Schmaltz says moving the station down the road a few blocks won’t impact response times.

“Maybe half a mile just three quarters of a mile down the street, so it’s not very far,” he said.

Voters would have to approve a bond of between $10 million and $13 million for that plan to become reality.

Another option is to turn Station 3 into a museum. Post Foods and other local businesses have also expressed interest in taking over the building for their use — though specifics of those plans are unclear.

The city will be having one more community conversations with the Post Addition Neighborhood specifically to address concerns regarding Station 3. That’s scheduled for March 8.

Fluery says several options will be presented to the city commission in the spring.

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