116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The city of Hiawatha is in the planning phase for constructing a second fire station, remodeling the current station and building a separate training facility for firefighters.
“Right now, we don’t have enough room,” said Fire Chief Matt Powers.
Planning for the second station initially started in the early 2010s. The matter went to a referendum in 2015 but didn’t pass.
“We only failed by less than a percentage,” Powers said. “After that point, we came back and looked at several ideas to try and expand where we’re currently at, but we’re landlocked here.”
The current and only fire station in Hiawatha, located at 60 10th Ave., was built in the 1970s and remodeled in 2000.
The city looked at relocating the station to a more central location, but the master plan said the ideal location for only having one fire station would be at Boyson and Center Point roads, but all of the land at that intersection is already developed.
The city found that the cost of one, big central station wasn’t feasible, coming in at an estimated $20 million.
“At that point, we needed to go back to the old idea of two stations,” Powers said. “We had the land already bought at Stamy Road from 2015, and it’s developed land with utilities.”
The new $6.5 million station will be built at 1550 Stamy Road on the north side of the city and will be funded with Local Option Sales and Service Tax (LOSST) dollars, avoiding any tax increase and a referendum vote.
“It was as much needed then as it is today and certainly what we know now it would have been cheaper to build then,” said City Manager Kim Downs. “However, we are in the now and LOSST definitely is providing an opportunity to move forward on a much needed project.”
The 18,610-square-foot station is almost double the size of the current station and will feature four drive-through apparatus bays, six dorm rooms and a 60-person training room.
The Hiawatha Fire Department covers all of Hiawatha proper as well the southern half of the Monroe township. The department’s ambulance district also covers Palo, Fayette and Shellsburg.
The department has around 10 full-time employees including the chiefs, up to five part-time staff and 38 volunteers.
Having two stations also will greatly improve the department’s response time, officials said. Currently, the department can only arrive at calls in four minutes to 65 percent of the community, but with a new station, that number improves to more than 90 percent.
“Our town is growing to the north and west and without this new location, we don’t have that easier access to those new areas,” Powers said. “We will be able to easily get to Tower Terrace and Edgewood to those new developments.”
Powers said the city’s goal is to send the new station project out to bid in early 2023 with the hope of breaking ground in the spring. If everything goes to plan, the new station will open in 2024.
Meanwhile, the current station also will be remodeled after the new station is built to include new, separate bedrooms for firefighters. Currently, firefighters share sleeping space in a “dorm room“ setup, Powers said.
The cost of the remodel is $437,000 and is also covered by LOSST dollars. It also will include an enlarged fitness and workout space, added day room space and ADA compliance upgrades.
“This is also about recruitment and retention for our people. People know they can get good firefighters out of Hiawatha and we have the concern of losing our members to larger departments,” Powers said. “Plus, we’re focusing on the wellness of our people. People need their own rooms and proper spots to work and workout.”
After the new station is built and the remodel is done, the department will build a two-story structure at 1410 Robins Road for fire and EMS training. The facility will include a burn room to conduct live fire training.
The facility will cost $250,000 and also will be funded with LOSST revenue.
“Public safety isn’t just used by residents. It’s used by anyone in town so LOSST is a good way to do this, because that’s also paid by all visitors to the city,” Powers said.
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