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Planning for a new station has been in the works for several years, due to increased demand for services. The fire department responded to 2,875 calls in 2015 and 3,820 calls in 2019, which reflects a 25% increase. The department estimates it will surpass 6,000 calls annually (16-17 calls daily) by 2026 (6% per year plus 500+ from pending development). As calls for service increase and the need for 24/7 staffing increases, the department has to plan site locations that best serve the communities. The long term plan calls for continued operation of Station 2, located at 4676 Hodgson Road, North Oaks, with continued 24/7 staffing; continued operation of Station 3 - 5545 Lexington Avenue, Shoreview, with the addition of 24/7staffing; and replacing Station 4 at 3615 Victoria Street, Shoreview, with the new proposed location at the Anderson Center off of Pine Tree Drive, which would be better located and staffed 24/7.
The new fire station would be designed to meet the fire department’s needs for the next 50 years.
The proposed new location is needed due to development expansions in all three cities. Projects include: Edison Apartment & Townhomes and Loden II (Shoreview); Marriott SpringHill Suites Hotel and Summit Senior Living (Arden Hills); and North Oaks Housing Projects. Regardless of the TCAAP development, there is quite a bit of development and projections that call for increased levels of service calls in all three cities.
In 1943 the department started as a Volunteer Fire Department and over time it evolved to a Paid‐On‐Call department which provided a relief association pension to those who served for 10 years or more. Firefighters were paid a nominal amount of money for the calls and training they attended.
In 2002 a full‐time Fire Chief was hired to run the department. Additional full‐time staff were added over the years including a full‐time Office Manager, Assistant Chief, Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal and Deputy Chief/Emergency Manager.
With an increase in calls and training requirements, the departmentinitiated a station staffing program (Duty Crew) that puts firefightersphysically in the stations 24/7 and allows firefighters to respond immediatelyfrom a station rather than being called in from home to respond to calls.
The Fire Department Board of Directors commissioned a needs assessment, which also reviewed response time models from the three current station locations. It was determined that a new station location should be located between Lexington Avenue and Snelling Avenue along County Road E., ideally in a commercial area rather than a residential neighborhood. The property needed to be 3-4 acres in size to accommodate 24/7 staffing and the necessary trucks and equipment.
In looking at that corridor, the only property that fit those requirements was the university property. The fire department approached Bethel to see if they would be open to selling some of their property. The identified location at Bethel is also attractive because it allows the trucks to go north to a major, controlled intersection, rather than south through residential neighborhoods. Trucks can control the intersection before they get to the intersection, rather than having to navigate a busy side street. Additionally, the location is south of the railroad tracks, so the trucks don’t need to wait for trains to pass.
Finally, other sites would have required multiple property acquisitions to get to the size needed, as well as demolition costs.
Currently, the fire department is only purchasing the land adjacent to the Anderson Center. Following the acquisition, the fire department would need to consult with its board of directors on when to begin construction on a new station. While a start date has not yet been decided, there are no plans to begin construction in the near future.
Yes, Pine Tree Drive is plenty wide and will work well for a fire station. As the fire department evaluated this location for a potential site, both the fire department and their architect reviewed Pine Tree Drive and whether or not it would be suitable for both egress and ingress movements of their equipment. They determined it would be a viable location; furthermore, Pine Tree Drive is a less busy street, which makes operating their equipment safer for both the fire department and other motorists.
If the fire station were to move further south and west, it would not be able to serve southern Shoreview (or portions of Arden Hills) with timely response times. The further south and west you go you will not find land that meets the criteria outlined in the needs assessment, and most of the land is already developed residential neighborhoods.
The plan would be to minimize any neighborhood impact as much as possible by having the trucks go north through the commercial area on County Road E, rather than south through neighborhoods. Being able to head out on a call through a controlled intersection is safer for fire crews, as well as residents, and allows for shorter overall response times. For a majority of fire calls the trucks would head north to County Road E.
It is anticipated that the trails located on the north section of the Anderson Center property where the proposed subdivision is located will be impacted when the sites develop. Existing trails may be relocated and reviewed during the development review process.
The fire department is seeking property to the north of the Anderson Center, while the Crepeau Nature Preserve is located to the south of the Anderson Center and will not be impacted by this proposal.
The below information was taken directly from the fire department’s needs study and highlights why Station 4 is being shuttered:
Station 4 Deficiencies
The station is typical of the era it was designed in. It was not planned for full time staff and sleeping. Trucks were smaller and there was less emphasis on training, health/wellness and reporting. Expansion is not possible anymore as the entire site has been utilized. The garage space has no support spaces and no additional space for apparatus and storage. There is no separation between apparatus bays and living spaces. All staff support areas are minimal as they are too small, including the bathrooms. A decontamination space does not exist. There are no training spaces. Parking is lacking and cannot be expanded. There is no staging area for trailers or equipment, so they would be in the circulation path. Access has become more difficult with the increased traffic loads on the intersection. There is tight space for required trash, recycling and no outdoor space for firefighters. The adjacent railroad is noisy and the trains stop traffic, which is a public safety concern during a call.
The short answer is yes, the station will serve all of Arden Hills and all of Shoreview. It will also serve North Oaks, when needed. All of the fire stations serve all locations in each of the three cities, due to the department’s coordinated response process. The closest unit to any situation is the one that responds. When a call comes in, crews respond based on call type and availability of closer crews.
Fire Station 1, located in Southern Arden Hills on New Brighton Blvd, was decommissioned in 2017. The building itself is outdated for use as a fire station. It would require multiple upgrades to operate with the current 24/7 staffing model. It is also is in a poor geographic location in the far southwest corner of Arden Hills, making it difficult to provide fire protection to the rest of Arden Hills and the two other cities served by the Lake Johanna Fire Department—North Oaks and Shoreview. Additionally, the building is in the middle of a residential neighborhood, which would be highly impacted if the station were still in use. For these reasons, a plan was developed many years ago to close that station.
The Pot O’ Gold site was part of the initial review process; however, the site configuration was not ideal for the fire station and the 2.19 acre site did not meet the three to four acres needed. There also were concerns about the potential traffic from both the Bowling alley/Bar and McDonalds.
The board is made up of representatives from the cities of Shoreview, Arden Hills, North Oaks and members of the Lake Johanna Fire Department. The City of Arden Hills represents one vote on the board, and decisions are made by a majority vote of the board.
The three cities rely on the fire department’s expertise to make recommendations on how they can best serve the three cities. The recommendation for a new station was not generated solely by the fire department. It was made following a needs assessment that was conducted by an independent entity. The decision by the board to move forward with searching for a piece of suitable land was made by the entire board, not just the City of Arden Hills.
The three cities fund the fire department’s operations and would be responsible for funding a future fire station. While the mechanics of the funding still need to be addressed, generally each city pays its proportional share for both the fire department’s operating and capital costs. Currently, Arden Hills pays 24 percent of the fire department’s budget and North Oaks and Shoreview pay 18 percent and 58 percent, respectively.