SOLON — The Solon Tri-Township Fire Department is trucking along with fundraising efforts to construct a new firehouse and move out of its cramped quarters.
The Solon Tri-Township Emergency Response Agency has purchased a lot for a new firehouse on the south side of Solon, next to the town’s Dairy Queen, and project leaders raised about $200,000 since last May for its construction. Those working on the project have a $4.2 million goal, but it could be whittled down thanks to contractors doing work either at-cost or in-kind, said Greg Morris, treasurer for the agency and a volunteer firefighter.
“We haven’t gone out to really ask anybody yet, and that’s going to come here in the future,” Morris said, adding that the current fire station on North Iowa Street will be for sale. “We have promised anybody who wants to fill out a donor sheet, whether you give us a dollar or a billion or anything in between, we want to make you part of the building. And by that I mean we’re going to put your name on the donor wall.”
Morris said he hopes the firehouse funding will be “buttoned up” in the next six or seven months, although he said it was a “lofty goal.” The timeline for construction of the building is dependent upon fundraising but Morris said if leaders can hit a $2 million mark, construction could begin.
“Once we get it done, it’ll be a huge asset to our community and more importantly our operation,” Morris said, adding that project leaders have toured new fire stations in both Iowa and Wisconsin. “The last thing we want to do, especially raising money, is get it all raised and get going and say ‘Uh oh, we didn’t do this right.’”
The all-volunteer department is staffed by 35 members and covers 112 square miles, including Big Grove and Newport townships. The current station was constructed in 1959 and has five bays to work out of, with just one being a drive through for the trucks.
Morris said space is tight in the current station. There’s little room to maneuver between where the trucks are parked and the firefighters store their gear, and the department’s rescue boat and ATV have to be tucked away, which makes responses more difficult.
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The demand on the department has been increasing with a growing community, Morris said. He expects the department to respond to more than 400 calls this year — more than it ever has.
The new firehouse is planned to be about two-and-a-half times the size of the current one, with eight drive-through bays. It also will have dorm rooms, a kitchen area, meeting and office space, and a basement that will serve as a firefighter family area.
“We’re trying to make it ... more family-friendly because the amount of time we spend there, we want to make sure our families are invited,” Morris said. “We also feel that putting a new firehouse up, it’ll be a great recruiting tool for us. People will want to be a part of that.”
Red Vespa, a downtown Solon pizza restaurant, plans to hold a fundraiser on Dec. 24 where all the proceeds from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. will be donated to the project. Donations can also be made at solonfirehouse.com.
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