Needed upgrades to Highland Township’s fire stations have officials seeking proposals that will have 2 of them rebuilt.

Last August, Highland Township officials, at the request of Fire Chief Ken Chapman, hired a consulting firm to assess and make recommendations for approving the 3 aging stations in the township. The firm came back with an opinion that their money would be best spent relocating and rebuilding Stations 1 and 2. The township is now seeking proposals for the job and hopes to find a developer by March. Chapman said he knew shortly after he took over as Chief in 2016 that there was work to be done to bring the stations up modern day standards. He said that when they built, nearly 50 years ago, the department was running 300 to 400 calls per year. Last year they did just short of 1,400.

Station 1, which operates 24-7, has inadequate sleeping quarters for employees and a well which has rusted pipes coming from it out of the ground. Station 2 has an expansion built over their septic system leaving them no way to access it. Both stations also lack exhaust removal systems, which filter harmful diesel engine fumes coming from the trucks to the outside.

Chapman said that to have these new stations built would likely require a new fire millage, which he believes is overdue anyway. He said the fire department’s current millage is 1.4 mils, which means the average household is paying around $150 per year for fire protection. He noted that Highland Township residents are currently paying $165 for garbage pickup, for comparison. The Fire Chief said their funding is “definitely under where it should be, but we’re doing the best we can with what we have.”

The cost of the two stations according to the consultants could be as high as $13 million combined. Chapman said that number is inflated however, because it accounts for full amenities at both stations, which will not be necessary. He said this process still has a long way to go and there will be plenty of town hall meetings and opportunities for public involvement along the way. (MK)