NEW PALESTINE — The Sugar Creek Township Fire Department plans to break ground on a new fire station this summer.
The new station will replace Station 42, 3337 W. U.S. 40, to give firefighters much-needed additional space, officials said. The new facility, estimated to cost about $2.2 million, will be built on a 2-acre plot of land at 401 S. County Road 500W, just south of the old grain elevator on the east side of Gem Road, near the intersection of U.S. 40.
Officials are taking bids for the project now and have plans to hire a construction company next month. Once construction begins this summer, firefighters hope the new station will be up and running within 18 months.
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The township purchased the land for $134,500 and has $2.2 million saved to cover construction, so officials won’t need to borrow any money, township officials say.
The current station — one of two in Sugar Creek — has served the area since 1982 but is no longer meeting its needs, officials say. The space, built to house volunteer firefighters who stopped by for only a few hours at a time, is too small to shelter full-time firefighters who work 24-hour shifts, and the bays can’t accommodate modern equipment, they say.
The original Station 42 was designed to serve only Spring Lake residents, but over the years, its coverage area has expanded. Together, stations 42 and 45 (3545 S. County Road 600W) cover 36 square miles.
County Road 500W marks the east-west dividing line for the township, making it an ideal location for a new station. Moving will make serving all corners of the township easier as the population — and emergency calls — grow, said Bob Boyer, Sugar Creek Township trustee.
Between January and March of this year, the department responded to 344 calls, up from 231 during the same period of time in 2010, data shows.
In addition to building a new facility, department officials hope to add several new firefighting positions in the near future to meet the needs of the growing department.
The department currently employs 34 full-time firefighters (one position is already open), but more could be needed in the future, fire chief John Begovich wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter.
The new station will include four bays for fire trucks and ambulances and encompass an estimated 11,200 square feet, far larger than the current station, estimated around 7,000 square feet.
That size will give the department space to house eight firefighters on a shift as opposed to four in the current station.
The new location will also provide quick and easy access to the highway via the stoplight at the corner of U.S. 40 and County Road 500W, officials say. The department responds to calls as far west as Cumberland and assists Greenfield, making a location near U.S. 40 imperative, they say.
When construction is complete, the department will be left with two empty buildings: the former fire station 41, which has been vacant for years at the intersection of U.S. 52 and County Road 500W, and the current Station 42.
Township officials say the state might be interested in purchasing Station 41 when New Palestine and the Indiana Department of Transportation widen the U.S. 52 and Gem Road intersection, a project slated for 2019.
Once the current Station 42 is vacant, the building will go up for sale, Boyer said.