By Jessica Mathews /

Green Oak Township plans to pick up the pace when it comes to constructing a new fire department headquarters building.

The board met Wednesday night and held a discussion centered on the project and a number of associated challenges, with a consensus reached to move full speed ahead. The main fire Station 81 is located on Whitmore Lake Road, just north of Silver Lake Road and west of US-23. The new headquarters building would be in that same area next to the police station to create a public safety complex.

Supervisor Mark St. Charles has been attending meetings regarding MDOT’s US-23 Flex Route expansion project in 2024. He said as discussion and plans have been moving forward, planned changes to Whitmore Lake Road were learned of and new roundabouts will also be going in. St. Charles told WHMI they’re also hoping to get an exit out of the fire station for emergency vehicles into the roundabout that wasn’t previously planned.

St. Charles says they really need to get moving if they want to build a new fire headquarters with the least amount of interruption to fire services and they need to get it done in conjunction with all of MDOT’s planned US-23 Flex Route improvements or they’ll be doing it after the fact and that’s never good. That work in 2024 will revamp Whitmore Lake Road and roundabouts will be installed.

As part of the MDOT work, significant grading changes will be made to Whitmore Lake Road. St. Charles says there will be about 4-feet cut out of it and where the fire station building currently is, the large fire apparatus would have a really hard time getting up or down that slope, because the station is so close to the road and it just wouldn’t work. Additionally, it was noted during the meeting that weekend traffic volumes associated with the Legacy sports center are huge, which then impacts other roads.

Another factor is pathway and trail work. St. Charles says they need to get the last link of the trail system in that would fully connect everything from one side of the township to the other. He said the whole M-36 interchange is getting changed with roundabouts going in and there will be access provided underneath US-23 from the west side to the east side. He adds that the township’s trail is already on the west side at Whitmore Lake Road and M-36. If they can get under US-23 and they move and reconfigure all of their entrances, St. Charles said they could then get up on the east side of US-23. He said it’s not going to be easy and that will be one of the hardest stretches of road, adding they’ll need to secure funding through various sources and grants because the township can’t fund the whole project.

St. Charles stated they already have the land for the headquarters and the building is designed and more specific items would be worked out during the site plan process - they just need to work out the timing of building it.

St. Charles said the goal is to move as fast as they can but noted they will need to go to the voters and the earliest the township could pursue a millage request would be August of next year. St. Charles said they’ve put a lot of money into design plans and will also be investigating if federal relief funds can be used toward the project to try and lessen the load for residents but at the end of the day, they need a new fire headquarters because the current building is “wholly inadequate.” Further, the department has an extremely large call volume that only continues to increase.

If a millage can be secured, St. Charles said they then could start the process at the tail end of 2022, have construction in 2023, and then MDOT’s Flex Route work in 2024.

St. Charles said they’ll now be working to get everybody to the table as soon as possible, get their committee back working on it and bring in the Road Commission.