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      Chocolay Township Fire Department needs new home

      Proposed new fire hall

      The Chocolay Township Fire Hall could be receiving a makeover in the near future. The township board has approved a millage request to build a new fire hall for the August ballot, but it is still up to the voters to decide.

      In its current state, the Chocolay Township Fire Hall, built in the 1970s, is inadequate to properly and safely cater to the fire department. "The current station doesn't meet the township needs at this point anymore. It has outlived its useful life as far as the structure and space requirements for the township," said Steve Lawry, Chocolay Township Manager.

      The fire department made a proposal for a new fire hall a couple years ago to the township board, and the board approved the millage request for the upcoming August ballot. Since the initial request, the township has already saved $625,000 for the project. Integrated Designs, Inc. in Marquette has designed the proposed new fire hall--it'll cost an estimated $1.8 million. The township plans to raise between $1.9 and $2 million to cover any unforeseen costs that might arise. After construction, the new fire hall will look something like the attached image.

      One of the biggest benefits of the proposed fire hall will be more room. In the current fire hall, things can get a little cramped. The fire engines can barely fit inside the bays. It's a tight squeeze for 30 volunteer firefighters to get ready for a fire in such close quarters. The department's newest fire engine is so big that it's nearly wall to wall and very close to the ceiling.

      "We just don't have the room to do the maintenance on the trucks and the equipment that we need to do. We do a lot of our own maintenance to cut down the costs on our budget, so we just don't have the workspace to do it," said Brad Johnson, Assistant Fire Chief.

      The proposed facility will have all of the room they need, including more offices and a large meeting room. Equipment will be better stored, there will be more space for training, and the department is expected to have a faster response time.

      "It's going to be safer for us to get out the door quicker. We're really cramped where we dress. We're right next to fire trucks. It's a safety issue," Johnson said.

      Chocolay Township residents can vote on the proposal on August 7. Voting will take place at both the township offices next to the fire hall and at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.

      If the proposal passes, construction is expected to begin in Spring 2013. They will start by tearing down the northernmost bay (closer to Silver Creek Road) and add on a section of the new structure. When that is complete, they will move all of the equipment to the new addition, tear down the rest of the fire hall, and continue building the rest.

      If the proposal fails, the fire department plans to try again on the November ballot.