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Arbor Vitae nudges closer to second fire station

April 18, 2020 by Brian Jopek

In January, Arbor Vitae fire chief Mike Van Meter attended a town board meeting to discuss ideas for a satellite fire station which, if ultimately approved, would be constructed on land at the southeast corner of the U.S. Highway 51 and County Highway N intersection. 

The land is currently owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). which had expressed interest in a land swap with the town. 

A big part of the reasoning for a second fire station on the town’s northern edge would be a substantial change in the town’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating, from a 10 to as low as six, a change Van Meter contends would result in significant savings to the town’s taxpayers. 

He told The Lakeland Times on Friday a logging operation contracted by the DNR was near finished with clearing timber from the roughly five acres being considered for the fire station. 

Van Meter has met recently with the DNR’s Craig Dalton to go over, at least on a preliminary basis, where the station’s driveway and entrances would be. 

“We kind of marked all that,” Van Meter said, adding he’s also met with Vilas County highway commissioner Nick Scholtes to see about a driveway. 

“He OK’d everything,” Van Meter said. “The DNR actually took out the driveway permits for us so they could get access to the property ... to thin trees along the highway right of way so the 

building can be seen. They pretty much have a lot of that cut out of there already.”

The initial, rough building plans called for a 60-square-foot by 80-square-foot building, but he said the first cost estimates nearing $500,000 were a little too much for the department. 

Another building in the 60-square-foot by 60-square-foot size range is now being looked at, its price tag in the $250,000 range. 

Van Meter said that structure would provide more than enough for a small officer, utility room, restroom and parking area for two of the department’s trucks — a pumper/tanker with 2,000 gallon capacity and a smaller pumper with 300 gallon capacity. 

Both trucks also have foam capability.

Van Meter said currently, the department has eight people who live nearby and the benefit, in addition to greatly enhancing the coverage for the northern part of town, will be to also provide faster mutual aid to other departments, such as the Plum Lake Fire Department. 

There’s a lot to do in the way of getting formal architectural plans put together, state approval of those plans, funds raised for the project and then, getting voter approval. 

That approval is needed since once the building is completed, it would belong to the town. 

Van Meter said delays in the town’s annual meeting process brought on by the current COVID-19 situation actually will provide him an opportunity to get a presentation for the town board put together and then another presentation for town electors whenever the town’s 2020 annual meeting is eventually held. 

As for the groundbreaking, Van Meter said he’s hoping for the early spring of 2021, if not sooner. 

“Two things are gonna dictate the start of this project,” Van Meter said. “One, is when the land swap with the DNR is finalized. Right now ... we are in the real estate appraisal phase of that. That means the DNR has five acres of land and the town, I believe, has eight acres they’re willing to trade. The DNR has to do their appraisal of both properties to see if they’re gonna be satisfied with that kind of a trade.”

The other big item to effect the timeline, he said, ties directly into the fundraising. 

“If we were to secure the donations to fund this project, then we wouldn’t have to use the competitive, municipal bidding process,” Van Meter said. “That would speed things up as well.”

Once the town has the property, he said he believes people will a lot more activity in that area. 

“The hope is to put a sign there on the property that says ‘Future home of the Arbor Vitae fire department’s station number two,’” Van Meter said. “Then people will know we are serious about this. This is gonna happen and we’re going to make it a better service across the entire town.”

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]

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