Champaign Seeks Stimulus Funds for New Fire Stations

July 09, 2009

The city of Champaign will file applications this week for federal stimulus funds to replace its two oldest fire stations.

The Champaign City Council gave city staff the go-ahead to apply for the funds Tuesday night.

Fire Chief Doug Forsman says the want to replace and relocated Fire Station Three on Bradley Avenue on Champaign's northeast side ... and Fire Station Four on John Street on the west side. He says both facilities are old and cramped --- and not in the best locations to provide what he calls "balanced coverage" that allows fast response by firefighters to all parts of the city.

"Our goal," says Forsman, "is to be in compliance with the national standard, which is four minutes travel time to 90 percent of the calls."

Forsman proposes moving Fire Station Three to a spot north of I-74, to better serve expanding developments in that region. Fire Station Four would only move a couple of blocks to the Kenwood and Springfield area. But Forsman says that busier intersection would allow firefighters to get to their destinations more quickly.

Moving Fire Station Three north would leave Champaign's northeast side without a fire station of its own. But Chief Forsman says other fire stations would still be able to serve the region quickly.

"What we were careful to do in placing this," explains Forsman, "was to make sure that every bit of that district that used to be covered by Station Three exclusively is now covered by either Station Five and Station One, or both Five and Station One, within the four-minute time frame."

Champaign's northeast side is represented by City Councilman Will Kyles --- who says he doesn't like the idea of Fire Station Three moving out of the traditionally black neighborhood. And Mayor Jerry Schweighart had questions about the relocation of fire Station Four. But both joined other council members in giving city staff the go-ahead to apply for the stimulus grant.

The federal stimulus grant would pay for construction costs --- but the city would be responsible for buying land and design fees. Forsman says the city doesn't have to commit to anything until they learn if they've won federal funding --- the news is expected in the fall.

Story source: AP