BARODA — Shortly after the Baroda Township Board meeting adjourned on Monday night, the township’s fire siren went off.
Baroda Township Supervisor Jim Brow listened and looked concerned. “This isn’t a test,” he said.
Only minutes later, the township’s new fire truck was speeding off, lights flashing, siren wailing, horn blasting.
It turned out to be a minor call, a complaint about burning trash, and the truck came back about 35 minutes later. But it was an impressively quick response by any standards, perhaps especially so for a volunteer department.
“We have 21 great volunteer firefighters that come in and give all they can to the community,” department Capt. Doug deBest said.
Now he’s hoping that the community will give something back to the firefighters.
Voters in Baroda Township on Aug. 7 will decide the township’s request for a $2.8 million bond issue to fund a new fire station. deBest and other department and township officials are hoping voters will give a positive response.
“It’s about making sure the firefighters are safe, and so we can provide the community the best service we can,” deBest said.
“Well, you want people to have a good place to work out of, to come down to for training to put fires out in Baroda,” Brow said. “If my house catches on fire, I want a well-trained firefighter who knows what he’s doing.”
The current station is some 60 years old, it isn’t large enough, it’s outdated, and it’s awkward to use, deBest said.
“The new trucks are just getting bigger and bigger,” deBest said. The station “wasn’t built for these big trucks. It’s so tight getting guys in there, getting equipment off. You have to be very careful. ... It’s a major concern. We have to deal with this. The next truck we buy is going to be just as big.
“And so we have to make sure we’re thinking about the future. And that’s why we’re thinking about a station that will last another 60 years.”
The station is simply obsolete, according to a township leaflet on the issue. Township Board Trustee David Wolf, also a Fire Board member, agrees.
“It’s no longer large enough to store all the equipment we have,” Wolf said.
The building has no fire suppression system, no exhaust system, no air fill station to fill air tanks, and no laundry, according to the leaflet. The firefighters’ suits must be cleaned after a fire, and the department has to pay to get them cleaned, the leaflet said.
“We’re washing our masks in the same kitchen sink that we’re getting water out of to make coffee,” deBest said.
Also, firefighters are required to shower “after certain incidents” to guard against the spread of contaminants, but the building has no showers or decontamination facilities. It doesn’t have separate bathrooms for men and women, though the department does have female firefighters.
The $2.8 million bond for the new fire station would be paid off over 30 years. In its first year, 2020, it would have a millage rate of 1.5771, and would cost $158 to the owner of a property with a taxable value of $100,000.
deBest said “the taxpayers get a really good deal. We have a volunteer department, so our millages are actually very small for the services we provide.”
deBest said the department has worked hard to save money by sharing services with Lake and Lincoln townships and Bridgman.
“We’re using our resources to the max,” deBest said. “We’re not asking to buy a new ladder truck because we work with Bridgman’s ladder truck. We bring them over here for their ladder truck, and we go over there to provide manpower and to help them out. We’re working with partnerships and getting different groups to work together.”
The department and township officials also looked hard at all options for the fire station, deBest said.
“We looked into adding onto our station, but we’re landlocked,” deBest said. The station is just north of Baroda’s Municipal Building.
“Because of utilities and the property we’re at – we have high-tension power lines at our back – we’re really stuck,” deBest said. “There’s no possible way of adding onto our station. And to try to make some modifications, that would be more expensive than building a new station. We looked at all the options we have.”
There will be a total of three millage requests on the Aug. 7 ballot. The other two requests are renewals of a 0.9794 millage levy for the fire equipment fund and a 1.9589 millage levy for police.
Fire department officials at a recent Township Board meeting were a bit disquieted by having three millage proposals on the ballot.
They asked the board to consider putting the renewals or the proposal for the new station on the November regular election ballot. But Township Board members decided that voters might perceive such a move as deceptive.