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Fire department breaks ground for new south side station

West Fargo officials pose with gold-painted shovels bearing a fire emblem during a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday at the current West Fargo fire station. The groundbreaking was held inside because of muddy conditions at the new location. Dave Wallis / The Forum1 / 3
An artist's drawing of the new southside fire station that will be built at 445 29th Ave. W. in West Fargo. Special to the Pioneer2 / 3
Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider shakes hands with West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern as Fire Chief Roy Schatschneider and Police Chief Arland Rasmussen look over the drawin for the new southside fire station in West Fargo. Dave Wallis / The Forum3 / 3

After ten years of talking and planning, a new West Fargo Southside Fire Station is about to become a reality.

A special groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday, July 13, at the site located at 445 29th Ave. W. (corner of 29th Ave. and 5th St. W.) attended by a variety of West Fargo officials including Fire Chief Roy Schatschneider, Police Chief Arland Rasmussen, Mayor Rich Mattern, and United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Director Jasper Schneider. West Fargo Area Chamber of Commerce Chair Kathy Lewin served as master of ceremonies for the program.

Upon completion, the new 8,500 square foot facility, coupled with the present headquarters located at 106 1st St. E., will almost double the fire department's operating space.

The almost 40,000 square foot parcel was purchased by the city in 2008 for fire department usage at a cost of approximately $160,000. A land swap was conducted in 2009 for an adjoining piece of property at no additional cost that resulted in better location adjoining Sheyenne Street, along with improved easement conditions.

The new sub station will house five truck bays, have ample office space to allow for future 24-hour staffing, as well as additional space for storage.

The West Fargo Police Department will also be utilizing the new fire department building as a substation, with one bay and a portion of the office and storage areas dedicated to their use.

Schatschneider said the need for the southside location has been dictated by the rapid city expansion since the year 2000, in particular, the development south of I-94 that has offered new challenges to city fire and police squads.

"We've been talking about the new station for a long time. Because of the Eagle Run Development, we felt we needed a presence south of the Interstate. With the location we arrived at, we'll have good access to Veterans Boulevard from both the north and the south, as well as to any future development to the west, so this is going to be a win-win situation for everyone. It gives us excellent coverage in the south area and it will also provide the police department with an additional access point, allowing them to be able to respond more quickly."

He said the ultimate goal is to shave response time down even further. Toward that end, the plan is to have a 24-hour response team located at the south station within a five-year time frame. "Right now this is a really big load on our strictly volunteer force. To pull people away consistently day after day from their work and families can be a big strain and this move toward 24-hour staff will be a big benefit to both our firefighters and the citizens."

The last time the West Fargo Fire Department experienced any major upgrading of facilities was a 12,500 square foot addition to the First Street headquarters completed in January of 2000, which saw hundreds of volunteer hours resulting in new offices, truck bays, bathrooms, a kitchen, and meeting room.

February of 2011 has been targeted as the move-in date for the new southside station.

The Fire Department currently operates with 43 volunteer firefighters and a paid staff of three - Schatschneider, Assistant Chief Dell Sprecher and Fire Inspector Kendel Frost. Once the new facility is up and running, the threesome will oversee the activity at the two stations.

The West Fargo Fire Department is a private non-profit corporation that contracts annually with the City of West Fargo for its services as well as the cities of Reile's Acres and North River and the townships of Reed, Raymond and Mapleton. They also receive donations throughout the year and apply for any grants applicable, always trying to operate conservatively. The departments 2010 operating budget was $575,000, with officials currently working on 2011 figures.

Roers Construction of Fargo is the general contractor for the $1,434,500 south side substation project which is being funded through the Fire Department's building fund and the United States Department of Agricultural Rural Development program.