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City breaks ground on new fire station


City of Cedar Springs welcomes construction of new community asset

Representatives from the City of Cedar Springs, the Cedar Springs Fire Department, Orion Construction and others broke ground last week on the new fire station. Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

It’s been a long time coming, but the City of Cedar Springs and Orion Construction finally broke ground last week on a new fire station in downtown Cedar Springs. 

The groundbreaking ceremony was held at 38 N 2nd St last Thursday, May 21. The fire station will be built on the site that once housed the old library on the corner of Cherry and 2nd, and the old Community building, on the corner of Elm and Cherry. Both have been torn down.

“Today we put shovels in the earth to break ground on a new fire station that will be a much needed tool in the arsenal of our firefighters to be utilized in protecting both the hearts and homes of the people of Cedar Springs,” said Mayor Pro Tem Pam Conley, prior to the groundbreaking. “As our firefighters are the people running into the buildings, the rest of us are running out. We are proud of a community that understands the need for proper facility to provide this heartfelt service to the citizens.”

The new fire station will provide added space and equipment necessary to service a growing Cedar Springs population. The Cedar Springs Fire Department serves a 16 square mile area, including the City of Cedar Springs and parts of Nelson Township, and approximately 5,600 residents. The Cedar Springs Fire Department is a fully volunteer/paid on-call fire department providing fire suppression, emergency medical services, rescue and other services. The department is comprised of 20 firefighters and medical first responders.

What will it cost?

The Cedar Springs City Council approved placing a proposal for the new fire station on the ballot for the   November 2018 election. The proposal passed and provided the necessary financing through a millage and tax bond not to exceed $3,115,000, which will pay for site improvements, build design and construction, as well as additional equipment, vehicles and other related expenses for the fire department.

“The voters have entrusted the city to use their money wisely to build a new fire station that will propel us into the future. The current fire station has been in place for 40 years at this point, and we’re looking to build a facility that will last for the next 40-plus years,” said City Manager Mike Womack. “With any project we undertake here in the city, we are very cognizant of the costs involved. We thank the citizens for entrusting us with their money and we will use it to the best of our ability. Not only is Orion Construction providing us the best bang for our buck, but we were also able to secure an incredibly low interest rate on the bond issuance that is going to save a ton on interest as well.”

According to Womack, citizens approved a 15-year option with an estimated $4,013,850 payback on the $3,115,000 loan. But since the interest rate was only 1.35 percent, they now only expect to have to pay back $3,454,816. 

“That is a savings of $559,034 over the original 15-year projection,” Womack told the Post. “That accounts for an estimated $37,000 reduction in each yearly payment that the City has to make on the bond payback.  For the citizens, it translates into a reduction from the original estimated 3.4 mills tax increase that was approved by voters down to only about 2.59 mills in the first year (it’s technically a variable rate but we don’t expect it to change much from year to year). With all of the economic development going on in the City, that number could go down even more as more businesses come to town.” 

“I am happy that we waited until the optimal time to issue to the bond because even though the project was a little delayed in starting, it will strongly benefit the taxpayers in the long run,” he added.

A rendering of the new fire station. Photo courtesy of Orion Construction, developed and provided to Orion by Hubbell, Roth & ClarkInc.

What will the new fire station have?

The new 10,000 square foot fire station will be triple the size of the existing facility, providing much-needed space for meeting, training, and equipment storage. It will also be compliant with new federal standards and local code.

“We have equipment stored off site that we’ll be able to bring back on-site, and we’ll have a meeting room big enough to hold meetings without having to pull trucks out of the apparatus bays,” said Cedar Springs Fire Chief, Marty Fraser. “The new station will give us room to expand with new and updated equipment to serve the community as the need grows in the future. It will be a great asset to the community and something we can all be proud of.”

The new fire station features a nearly 7,000 square foot pre-engineered metal building for the apparatus area with four vehicle bays for fire engines, as well as storage areas for cleaning and storing gear, as well as a hose tower.  Directly adjacent to the apparatus bays is a 3,300 square foot office area with a 60-person meeting room, full kitchen, laundry room, office and storage areas, two full bathrooms and two half-bathrooms.

“We’re proud to be a partner with the Cedar Springs community and work with them to create a new home for the Cedar Springs Fire Department,” said Roger Rehkopf, President of Orion Construction. “The new facility will provide necessary updates and adequate room and resources for the firefighters to best serve their community and keep them safe.”

Orion Construction is serving as the general contractor. Hubbell, Roth & Clark, Inc. is providing all architectural and engineering services, construction engineering, and oversight of the project.

Construction is estimated to begin in the next couple of weeks and be complete by April or May of 2021.

Construction Engineering and Oversight of the project

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City Council chooses 15-year millage proposal for fire station


by Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council went over the numbers last Thursday evening, and decided that while the monthly payments would be a little higher for taxpayers, going with a 15-year bond on the proposed new fire station was worth saving taxpayers at least $400,000 over a 20-year bond, and $800,000 over a 25-year bond.

The proposal that residents will vote on in November will be a 15-year bond at 3.455363 mills the first year, and an average of 3.4290 mills thereafter. For someone with a home that has a taxable value of $50,000, that equates to about $172 more per year, or just under $15 per month. And, if the taxable values in Cedar Springs go up, the millage rate will go down. 

The total cost of the fire station is estimated at $2,991,741. That includes $2,136,958 in building and site prep; engineering and testing of $320,544; and $534,240 for contingencies. “Contingencies are additional funds that are set aside for fixing problems that were not accounted for or were unknowable at the time of design and planning,” explained City Manager Mike Womack. “Any funding that is leftover at the end of the construction of the building would then be put towards ‘equipping a new fire station’ and ‘acquisition of fire equipment, apparatus and vehicles, and other related expenses and improvements’ as is indicated in the ballot language.”

The total payback on the 15-year bond would be $4,013,850.

The vote was 5-2, with Council members Perry Hopkins and Jerry Gross Sr. being the two no votes. Hopkins said he would personally like the one that got it paid off the fastest, but felt a 20-year bond would be easier on taxpayers. 

Gross also felt taxpayers would have a hard time with it. “As much as I want a new fire station, we also have to look at the new storm drain expense—they won’t have a choice in that. I just struggle with that much money. It’s a tax load on the community,” he said.

“Despite what some people are saying, there are not a lot of frills in that station,” said Fire Chief Marty Fraser. We had to meet a lot of government standards not in effect 40 years ago. People don’t understand what we’ve done here (at the current station) the last 38 years. We’ve made do. It was built to code in 1980 but it no longer meets code.”

Cedar Springs firefighter Lt. Steve Schipper was on the fire station relocation committee, along with another Cedar Springs firefighter, the City Manager, three businessmen (two of which are builders), the Mayor, and a city resident whose career was firefighting in Grand Rapids. “Our mission was to plan a 50-year facility that would meet current and possible future needs,” explained Schipper. 

He explained that they looked for a piece of property that the city already owned to keep down the expense. And they wanted to stay near the center of town. “It’s critically important to be able to access 17 Mile and Main Street quickly,” he said. “We also have a longstanding relationship with Nelson Township to provide coverage there as well.” 

Both he and Fraser noted they are one of the busiest departments in the area, fielding 654 calls in 2017—including 26 structure fires; 44 traffic accidents; and 487 medical calls. And as Cedar Springs and Nelson Township grows, so will the number of calls.

One big problem they have is that they have outgrown the station.

“Today, we have eight apparatus and five bays. All of our equipment does not fit, and some is stored off site,” said Schipper. He noted that if they have a hazmat situation, they have to go to Ensley to get what they need. The Model A is also not at the station. And equipment is getting bigger. So the architect took that into consideration when designing the equipment bays on the new building. 

Schipper said that the station would be a pre-fab concrete building with dressing to make it look nicer. 

For instance, Fraser said that while the drawing shows nice, arched doors, the arches are merely decorative. “The doors are just basic square doors,” he explained.

But it does need to be built to a category 4 rating. “We need to be able to respond to the public during weather events,” explained Schipper. 

Schipper said they also have no place for their bi-monthly meetings of 18-25 individuals. With the proposed training room, they will be able to have those meetings, and also invite other departments to training sessions. Schipper said that they reduced the sizes of other rooms in order to make that room a little bigger. He said it would fit about 32 people at tables, and up to 51 standing. “It was also designed with the idea that it could be used as a command center in case of an emergency—such as a tornado—by us, or FEMA, or the Red Cross,” he noted.

One of the things people have questioned about the floor plan is why do volunteer firefighters need bunks? “There are not going to be bunks there. We will probably use it for storage,” remarked Schipper. “We needed to plan for expansion so it could be a future bunk room if needed.” 

The hose tower is where they will hang their hose to dry after a fire. “A drying room is atrociously expensive, so we opted for something less expensive,” said Schipper.

He explained that the kitchen is really just a kitchenette with a coffee pot and a dorm size fridge. The offices are small as well—just big enough for a firefighter or two to do paperwork.

Schipper said that while the new station is bare bones, it would fit their needs now and in the future. “It says a lot to the people who want to come to the city and they see the amenities; they want to see they are protected, not just by police but by first responders as well. An adequate fire station says a lot about a city. A lot of goodwill comes from that.”

For questions on the fire station bond proposal, you can email the city manager at cityofcedarsprings.org or call 616-696-1330.

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Halloween was Spooktacular


Kids lined up outside of the Post to get a spooktacular treat. Post photo by J. Reed.

The Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce’s Halloween Spooktacular was a big hit as hordes of little and not so little ghouls and goblins, zombies and zany characters visited homes and businesses in Cedar Springs Tuesday evening for annual trick or treating fun.

Businesses along Main Street, the old schoolhouse at the C.S. Museum, the fire station, the library, and The Springs Church all gave out treats and held their own form of Halloween fun.

Superheroes, princesses, and evil villains all helped
themselves to candy at The Post. Post photo by J. Reed.

Downtown trick or treating was from 5-6:30 p.m., while residential trick or treating lasted until 8 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cedar Springs Fire barn: will it stay or will it move?


The current Cedar Springs Fire Station, at W. Maple and Second Street. Photo by J. Reed.

The current Cedar Springs Fire Station, at W. Maple and Second Street. Photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

With all the talk of the opening of the new library at N. Main and W. Maple Streets, the question arises: what is happening with the Cedar Springs Fire barn? Will it stay where it is, or will it be relocated?

Chances are, it will be relocated close to the very same area it started in.

“We are strongly looking at the area behind the old library building (between Elm and Cherry fronting on 2nd) as the location,” said Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack. “We are trying to figure out what the fire department’s future needs will be and have put together a couple of potential renderings about what the building will look like. Once we are satisfied with the basic design of the building we will take it to an architect and get a cost estimate.”

According to The Cedar Springs Story, by Sue Harrison and Donna DeJonge, a new fire station was built at the corner of Cherry and Second Street in 1874. When the book was published in 1976, the Fire Department also had a station at that same location, 43 W. Cherry. It later became the home of the current Cedar Springs Library.

According to Fire Chief Marty Fraser, they shared the building for a time with the Cedar Springs Library. The Fire Station had the west part of the building, and the library had the east side. Then a new fire station was built on W. Maple in the late 70s or early 80s. That’s where the fire department is today.

Come May, when the new library opens at Main and W. Maple, the fire department and library will once again be sharing the same property, although not the same building. That is, until a new fire station is built.

The new location would be just behind the old library, in the area where the Cedar Springs Community building used to stand.

Womack said that another idea was to share a building complex with the county, on property they own on 17 Mile, behind Taco Bell, but the timing wasn’t right.

“That project is 3-5 years in the future and we want to break ground in the next 1-2 years,” he explained.

Stay tuned! The Post will pass along more info on the building of the new fire barn as we get it.

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Kindergarten community walk


Mrs. Bellamy’s (white t-shirts) and Mrs. Dault’s (green t-shirts) kindergarten classes went on a community walk on Friday, May 29. This hands-on learning experience included stopping at the police station, where students learned how they can stay safe and what policemen and women do. Next they stopped at the Post Office, where students mailed a persuasive letter they had written. This was followed by a trip to the fire station, where students were able to explore an ambulance, firetrucks, and fire equipment. Then they took a rest at the library, where they learned about the summer reading program and listened to a good story. The last stop was pizza and play at Morley Park.

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