The West Fargo Fire Department is planning to build a new home base north of Interstate 94.
Fire Chief Dan Fuller asked the City Commission for approval to move forward with a nearly $1 million land purchase near 17th Street East, just north of Menards and east of Moore Engineering, at the commission's Sept. 8 meeting.
The land, 3.89 acres at 1201 10th Ave. E., was approved unanimously to purchase for $967,000 using the city's sales tax revenue.
Fuller said the new headquarters would be more centrally located in the city and would improve response times north of Interstate 94, where the majority of older and historical homes are located.
"This area has a response time higher than we would like," Fuller said.
Fuller has eyed the land for a new station for years as he transitioned the department from an all volunteer department to one authorized to have 68 staff with 22 full-time firefighters and staff.
Adding another station would likely allow the department to request an additional 14 full-time firefighters.
"So every single day, nine would be working between two fire stations," Fuller said.
Once the land is purchased, building a new 30,000 square foot station would cost around $10 million, with construction to be completed by fall 2023. Fuller said an architectural firm would need to be secured before ground could be broke on the project in spring 2022.
"For this phase, no property tax increase or special assessments will be used," Fuller said.
Fuller said funding for construction of a new building has not yet been determined. The city has at least two options it could use: a bond that would be paid back through sales tax or capital improvement funds.
The city also could hire a private company to build the project and then lease it back to the city, a model that other cities have used.
"They've used it quite a bit in the western part of the state," Fuller said. "The politician subdivision owns land then the [developers] build [the building] and they lease it back to you for a certain number of years."
Some federal grant money may be available for the project, as well, but grants are highly competitive across the nation, Fuller said.
The West Fargo Fire Department currently has two fire stations, its current headquarters at 106 First Street, where administrative staff have offices and the Southside Fire Station at 445 29th Ave W., which houses the department's full-time staff and living quarters.
After the fire department officially became a part of the city of West Fargo earlier this year, the rural West Fargo Fire Department became its own entity. The rural department retained ownership of the Central station. The city department leases the space for about $15,000 each year.
Fuller said although the rural department is now a separate entity, the two still work together closely.
"Lines of communication are wide open today; hopefully they stay that way forever," Fuller said.
In 2019, a total of 57 fires were reported in the city. Of the 57 fires, 16 were building fires, which are considered the most dangerous to the community. The city is divided into six geographical regions based around the two stations. Response times vary by zone, but emergency medical calls varied from 4 minutes, 37 seconds to 8 minutes, 18 seconds, and fire response times varied from 5 minutes, 37 seconds to the highest fire response time of 8 minutes, 32 seconds.
Fuller said not only would a station in this area improve response times, it also helps balance equity between northern and southern areas of West Fargo.
He pointed to two major fires in the past three years that were located in the Meadow Ridge neighborhood.
"Our response time was longer than it could have been," Fuller said. "Property damage could have been less."
In 2014, the West Fargo Fire Department's insurance rating, which is determined by the Insurance Services Office Inc., was improved from a 5 to a 4. The ISO scale rates insurance policies on the scale of a 1 being the best rating and 10 equating to having no local fire services. In 2019, the rating again improved to a 3.