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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Fire Station Burns Residents

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MALTA – A proposed midtown fire station is the hot topic in Malta. The fire department has a list of reasons for choosing a Dunning Street location, but residents say they want to “live in a forest” and their forest is rapidly disappearing.

Donna Kessler has lived in the Luther Forest neighborhood for 28 years. Her backyard abuts the four-acre parcel that the Fire Companies of Malta are eyeing for the midtown station. If built, the fire station parking lot would be 75 feet from her property line. She said that’s not enough of a buffer.


“It just doesn’t fit in the environment there; it’s a residential area,” Kessler asserted.
Richard Guerin, grant manager and researcher for the Malta Ridge Volunteer Fire Company, said two studies were conducted that pointed to the Dunning Street site. A 2009 Fire Protection Master Plan study recommended combining services between the Malta Ridge and Round Lake fire companies, together named the Fire Companies of Malta. The second studied the use of town-owned land and concluded that the green parcel was best suited for a firehouse.


“We don’t oppose them consolidating fire departments,” said Barbara Fenton. “We just don’t want it there.”


Fenton has owned her home on May Apple Way for 25 years. Her yard backs up to Ellsworth Commons, and she said her entire backyard has been “decimated” by it.


“That (Ellsworth Commons) is the thing that woke up the sleeping giant, so to speak,” said Kessler. “Now we’re on the leading edge of what’s going on here at the firehouse and have been trying to fight it from the get-go.”


That fight included a petition signed by 400 residents that was presented to the town board at the January 3 reorganizational meeting. Andrew Lamothe, president of the board of the Fox Wander West Neighborhood Association, said he was originally approached by the fire department to get support for the project, but as he talked to his neighbors he realized they were opposed to it.


“The neighborhood association board has to support the neighbors,” he said. The petition consisted of one sentence: “We the undersigned oppose the building of a firehouse on Dunning Street.”


Guerin said a history of the property revealed that it was part of the planned development district that was proposed to the town by the Luther Forest Corporation in 1977. The parcel was set aside for future use commercially or as a fire station or town hall.
In 2005 the land was donated to the town of Malta and has been appraised for about $500,000. Guerin said to buy a comparable site from a developer would cost about $3.5 million.


The fire companies have been saving toward the purchase of land for three years. The Fire Protection Master Plan study recommended closing two of the four current locations, so those properties would be sold and the money used toward the new fire station and equipment.
“It’s going to save money, improve service and it’s a smart use of government property,” Guerin said.


Residents said the two-lane road, punctuated by roundabouts, is already strained by the increased traffic flow from GlobalFoundries.


“There’s really no place in an emergency situation for people to pull over to get out of the way of a fire truck, especially a hook-and-ladder truck like they’re talking about getting,” said Fenton.


Guerin said a 100-foot ladder truck is necessary to reach the roofs of Ellsworth Commons and GlobalFoundries, but none of the fire stations are large enough to garage one.
Supervisor Paul Sausville said he respects the fire department’s view on the matter, but it should be put to a public referendum.


“I’m recommending to the town board that we put the matter up before the voters and let the voters decide,” he said.


“I don’t have anything against the firemen, they do a great job,” said Kessler. “Where would we be without them? But it’s where they want to put the firehouse that’s our
problem.”

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