By Keith Knepp
NAPPANEE — The city of Nappanee hosted a public hearing Tuesday evening, Feb. 7, to discuss plans to build a new fire station within the city limits. More than 50 people attended to hear comments from Mayor Phil Jenkins, Fire Chief Don Lehman and other city leaders.
Jenkins said there are 14 potential sites for the new station, one of which they hope to select by the middle of this year with construction to begin in spring 2024 and be completed by 2025.
The current fire station, which came into service 53 years ago, is attached to city hall. The facility also housed the police and EMS departments until 1991 when a separate building was constructed across Lincoln Street for those two entities. According to Jenkins, there has been a 67% increase in calls since the fire department moved in to the building in 1970.
“This is something we’ve been discussing for around six years now,” said Jenkins. “We want to be able to combine our fire department and EMS into one building. We also have a big need for living quarters.”
He pointed out that changes in technology and equipment of both departments necessitate more direct interaction. Currently, the fire department has two full-time members. To roll out a truck, there must be four members, which is sometimes daunting during daytime hours when the department is run primarily by volunteers. Jenkins said the city is hoping to add two more full-time firefighters to the department in the next two years to help alleviate that problem.
He added that the EMS department currently has living quarters suited for two people, but due to an increase in need the city has been adding a third EMT to that living space during each shift.
Jenkins noted the 14 possible sites are centered around five general areas. A variety of criteria is being considered, including access to the major roads and other location factors. Some of the properties being considered include houses that are currently occupied, as well as other occupied venues. The feedback the city is seeking from the community will be used to narrow down those possible sites. Jenkins is confident a site can be agreed upon that will not affect anyone who does not want to be displaced.
“Our biggest thing is choosing a site that allows the quickest response time to emergencies,” Jenkins said. “We can make any of the proposed sites work.”
A second meeting for public comments will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb.. 16 at the Nappanee Center, 301 W. Market St., Nappanee.
Comments also can be sent to [email protected].