Bunker Hill offers plans for rejoining Village FD
At the Village Fire Department Commission meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 19, Bunker Hill Village officials presented a plan for the city to reenter the Village Fire Department and suggested building a second station at a later point.
An unusually large audience of about 40 residents and officials from the six Memorial Villages the VFD serves attended the meeting at the Hedwig Village city hall.
After months of conflict over emergency response times that began over the summer, the Bunker Hill city council only approved the operating portion of the VFD 2019 operating budget in September but voted down funds for capital improvements to the fire station and effectively lost its membership in the department. Bunker Hill later opted to retain the VFD’s services through the end of 2019.
Bunker Hill Alternate Fire Commissioner Bert Rosenbaum said his city’s leadership is ready to rebuild its relationship with the other Villages and move forward.
“Bunker Hill wants to become a member of the Village Fire Department,” Rosenbaum said. “I think the commission and the cities want us to be a member of the Village Fire Department, and I’ve heard at various times the phrase, ‘Six is better than five.’ And we’re in total agreement with that.”
To that end, he presented the commission with a check for $21,626 that brought Bunker Hill current for its share of the fire station’s recently replaced roof and said his city is “ready, willing and able to make those payments” for the 2019 budget, including its share of the $3.5 million for the fire station’s renovations.
Jay Smyre, Bunker Hill council member and mayor pro tem, offered ideas for building a second station in the southwest part of the VFD coverage area but emphasized they were not conditions for rejoining the department, only suggestions.
He said according to VFD data, right now 14 percent of total emergency medical services calls happen simultaneously (where the station’s two certified ambulances are both out on calls). Once that number reaches 20 percent, Smyre suggested fully staffing another ambulance or apparatus at a second station. Currently, during those simultaneous calls, the second ambulance borrows staff members from the pumper truck.
Smyre said Bunker Hill is willing to front the funds for a second station that VFD would pay for with a 30-year amortization.
“Bunker Hill is willing to acquire the land, design, build and finance Station 2,” Smyre said. “We’re going to take a 30-year bond out and front the money for the Village Fire Department so that the Village Fire Department does not have to put that money up front.”
A study done by Kirksey Architecture showed that a second station with just EMS and 3,725 square feet could be built for about $1.67 million, or a station with both EMS and fire services and 4,677 square feet could be built for about $1.97 million. Smyre also estimated that the land for a second station would cost about $1 million in additional funds.
Alternatively, he offered a less expensive plan where Bunker Hill would use its own resources to build a station at its city hall that the VFD would then staff.
Smyre urged the Memorial Villages to begin cooperating again.
“We’re always going to have differences, but we’ve got to work together. We’ve got to find out how to move the ball, and that really to me is all that counts … As a citizen of Bunker Hill, we want it to be over. We want this fixed. This is silly in my opinion,” Smyre said.
After a closed session, the commission announced that it would be extending its services to Bunker Hill past December 2019 but nothing was said further about the the city’s membership in the department.
Bringing Bunker Hill Village back into the fire department is uncertain and could take some time.
“There (are) five cities that will have to vote on an interlocal amendment, so it’d have to be amended to the interlocal because there’s not provision in the interlocal currently for bringing somebody back on,” said Zeb Nash, acting chair of the commission and Piney Point Village fire commissioner. “Now it shouldn’t … be a monumental task, but it’s something that has to be done.”
Nash started a commission subcommittee to explore the issue further.