This is no drill: Palisade opens new fire station
It might not be brand new all the way through, but the revamped Palisade Fire Station still has that new building smell, along with a host of modern amenities and a ton more space for firefighters and other emergency responders.
The new station—a creative mix of new construction and adaptive re-use of part of the former Palisade High School complex—is ready for residents to view, and the town is inviting everyone to an open house of the new station from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.
And there is a lot to see.
Sparkling new bays for fire department vehicles now stand where a parking lot and garden spot once were, right outside the old high school. Now, high ceilings, new fixtures, bright and efficient lighting, and a smoothly humming new HVAC system surround the department’s critical vehicles. They are comfortably parked just steps from the former outside wall of the former library branch and school.
“I went to high school in this building,” said Chief Richard Rupp, who has been with the department for 30 years, 15 years as chief.
Passing through a large set of doors beyond the vehicles bay, and entering the new crew quarters and office space, it’s hard to imagine the space as a former school. It’s more like a well-appointed living space now — with a large kitchen, comfortable living area with a television, and rooms with a bed and a desk for crew members to decompress in between calls. The crew quarters in particular are a major improvement over the makeshift accommodations in the town’s former small, original firehouse downtown.
“They looked like prison cells,” said Town Administrator Rich Sales, comparing the old crew quarters to the new.
Chief Rupp said his department often schedules shifts with at least a few members who don’t live in Palisade, and those are the team members who will end up staying in the new station.
The station’s new location—along U.S. Highway 6 between Peach and Iowa avenues—won’t necessarily improve response times, Rupp said, but there are some advantages to the new location, he said. They have a more direct route in responding to calls on the interstate now, and trucks won’t be speeding through the downtown area directly, unless called there.
“We eliminate some stop signs. We eliminate some turns. We eliminate a lot of other hazards,” Rupp said.
Walking through the new facility—among new rooms reserved for quick decontamination, equipment storage, a library and study, record keeping, and office space for the fire and EMS chiefs—the word “seamless” comes to mind, especially as the new station is a mix of old rehab and new construction.
Speaking of rehab, even “Old Red” has a new home. Palisade’s first motorized firefighting vehicle, from 1937, has lived at Chief Rupp’s home for the past 18 years. Now the restored relic shares space in the ambulance bay area.
The station project—a combined effort of the town and the Palisade Rural Fire District—is the second phase in a larger effort to convert the old high school and Valley School East into a civic center. The first phase restored the school’s gymnasium in 2010.
Space for the police department already has been set aside, adjacent to new digs for the Board of Trustees and the town’s municipal court. Trustees are expected to hold their first regular meeting in a refurbished room connected to the new station on Jan. 22.
The open house today will be a celebration of the new accommodations, but for Sales, it’s also a recognition of some real cost savings in the project. An original plan to build a station from scratch—to the tune of about $4 million—was scrapped when the economy went south.
“Our board is very fiscally conservative right now, so it was like, what can we do with what we have?” Sales said, adding that the about $1.8 million price tag for the new station incurred no new debt for the town. “That is really unique,” he said.
Through the “amazing” work, as Rupp called it, by FCI Constructors and architect Wagner Galloway, the latest phase of the project came in slightly under budget and a bit ahead of schedule, Sales said.
Instead of a ribbon cutting, a “hose de-coupling” will happen today at the open house, along with some short presentations and light refreshments, Sales said.
Mostly, the event will be a chance for residents to literally kick the tires of their new, efficient fire station and EMS resource, with pride.