Peninsula Fire Department New Engine
Peninsula Fire Department New Engine 1 | PFD Photo
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At a study session this week, the Peninsula Township Board and Peninsula Fire Department (PFD) Chief Fred Gilstorff met to discuss the new Fire Station 3, to be located on the north end of the Old Mission Peninsula on Center Road, between Swaney Road and Tompkins Road.

In March, we reported that the Board and PFD were seeking a location for a fire station on the north end to not only provide faster fire and emergency care to residents in that area, but also help improve the fire department’s ISO (Insurance Service Office) rating, which would result in better insurance premiums for homeowners in that area.

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Peninsula Township and Peninsula Fire Department seeking land for Fire Station 3 on north end of Old Mission Peninsula
Intersection of Center Road and Swaney Road | Jane Boursaw Photo

The Township Board began looking for a location for the new station earlier this year after an initial plan to renovate Lawrence Mlujeak’s garage across from Haserot Beach fell through. It was determined that the building would require extensive restoration to bring it up to code, so the building was subsequently demolished.

The Board is still working through the process of acquiring 2.35 acres from Don and Barb Switzer, who run Switz-R-Land Christmas Tree Farm there, for $18,000 per acre, bringing the total cost of the land to $42,300. Here’s a short video of the location for Fire Station 3 during a site visit by the Board in April.

At the study session this week, Jennifer Hodges, Project Manager with Gourdie-Fraser in Traverse City (the Township’s engineering firm), presented a plan that outlines the scope of the new fire station.

Staffing the New Fire Station

While the proposal is preliminary at this point and must go through the special use permit process with the Planning Commission and subsequent public hearings, the starting-point proposal includes a 1200 square-foot living quarters, 2000 square-foot storage building, and site improvements, including grading, landscaping and site utilities (gas, electric, well and septic).

Initially, the project was intended to be a storage facility with no full-time fire staff on site, but with support and interest from the Township Board and residents in the area, the project has evolved into storage plus living quarters, including a bathroom, bedrooms, common area and kitchen.

The cost of the preliminary proposal as presented by Hodges totals $924,796; however, members of the Board agreed that it’s better to construct a building now that will give residents on the north end fast fire and medical care, as well as plan for the future.

“My personal feeling is, if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right the first time,” said Fire Chief Fred Gilstorff. “If it’s not staffed, that doesn’t guarantee good response times. Ultimately, the best thing is have someone in that building full-time, and it’ll also help our ISO score, saving people money on insurance.”

Planning for the Future 

Gilstorff added that if the new fire station is staffed full-time, the plan would be to have a 4×4 fire truck housed there that’s licensed as a medical first response truck equipped to diagnose and treat cardiac arrhythmias and other heart issues through defibrillation.

Township Trustee Dave Sanger agreed, noting, “I believe we’re on the right track. There’s a need on the north end, but we also need to plan a building for the future.” He added that it’s important to remember that Peninsula Township is not the typical six-by-six mile township structure. “We’re essentially three townships,” he said.

Township Supervisor Rob Manigold said that much of the cost of the project – possibly half – could come out of the Township’s Enterprise or “Tower” Fund, a fund that’s been in existence since the 1990s and consists of monies paid each year by T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and other cell phone companies to enhance their coverage.

Manigold said the Township would look at other funding options to cover the rest of the cost without raising millage. “We’re at two mills right now, and I’m pretty confident that we can hold that two mills for a while.” He added that one idea would be to finance the rest of the cost and pay it back from the Enterprise Fund, which continues to build as cell phone companies renew their contracts each year.

As mentioned, the project must move through the Planning Commission, Special Use Permit process, and public hearings. But township residents will have an opportunity to voice their opinions at the next Township Board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 7 p.m. at the Township Hall, when Hodges and Gilstorff will present the project to the full board.

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A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

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