Inver Grove Heights moves forward with plans for new fire station

At its Oct. 9 meeting, the Inver Grove Heights City Council unanimously approved a purchase agreement with William and Muriel Carlson for their property located at Highway 52/55 and Concord Boulevard. 

The 11.6 acre-property, which the city is purchasing for nearly $2 million, is the proposed site of the city’s new fire station. 

In an Oct. 11 interview, Joe Lynch, city administrator, said the new firehouse is replacing the city’s former Fire Station 2, which was torn down nearly a decade ago during redevelopment on Concord Boulevard. 

“Station 2 at that time wasn’t as fully functional as stations 1 and 3 because it simply stored equipment,” Lynch said, adding that while the station will be a new building, it will still be designated as Fire Station 2. It will be the first fire station built in the city since the 1980s. 

 

Meeting changing needs

City attorney Tim Kuntz said during the Oct. 9 meeting the new station would purposefully be in the southern part of the city, to deal with a number of issues.

A 2014 study looked at fire department response times in the south and southeast portion of Inver Grove Heights. Lynch said response times were getting longer and the city wanted to know how that could be fixed. 

There had been changes in fire service with Eagan consolidating a number of its stations, Lynch said, so Inver Grove Heights couldn’t rely as much on mutual aid.

Lynch also said insurance ratings were putting pressure on a number of businesses and homeowners, generally in the south and southeast part of the city, who saw an increase in their insurance premiums as a result of not being within a certain distance of fire service or fire hydrants.

Lynch also said the city has changed its service model since Fire Station 2 was demolished, having duty crews in-station, ready for alarms.

“There are individuals on shift, so they’re actually at buildings, which increases our ability to obviously get on a truck and respond to events in a timely fashion,” he said.

The Carlson property came up as the number one site to help resolve the city’s issues, Lynch said. 

In negotiations with the Carlsons, Kuntz said the property was split into two parts: a five-acre tract and a 6.63-acre tract. There’s currently a home and an accessory building on the property.

The total purchase price for the two tracts will be roughly $1.9 million. Closing is scheduled for the end of October, at which time the city will take possession of the properties.

Kuntz said negotiations with the Carlsons were such that they were not willing to only sell one of the pieces of land. There will be two closings that occur simultaneously.  

 

Zoning changes

The property is currently designated as regional commercial in the city’s comprehensive plan. It is zoned B-3, which is a business district. Kuntz said subsequent to the purchase, the planning department had initiated a comprehensive plan change for two reasons. One reason is to place both tracts within the Metropolitan Urban Service Area, or MUSA. This is a line drawn by the Metropolitan Council that includes properties that would be served by the major metropolitan systems like sewer lines. Lynch said the Met Council asks communities to define where they wanted the MUSA line to be.

Being part of MUSA is a more sustainable design, rather than relying on a septic system and water tank, which would be costly to maintain, he said.

“It is better from an economic standpoint to install the sewer and water once instead of ... having to put an individual septic system that treats sewer” that needs to be replaced in 10-15 years, Lynch said. 

The land will also be rezoned from its commercial designation to institutional.

The designs of the new fire station have yet to be completed — Lynch said they’re as far as five months off — and so there are no estimates for constuction costs. The city will decide how to fund the new building, possibly with capital improvement bonds, at its Oct. 23 meeting.

Lynch said the tentative timeline is to have the new fire station open and ready for use by Feb. 1, 2019.

“While we’re going to be cost conscious, we want to make sure we do it right because it will be a 50-year building to serve the fire department,” Lynch said. 

 

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com



 

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