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Marion city council seeks plans to expand fire station

By Curtis Winston
Contributing Writer
Posted on 2/28/2018, 1:43 PM

MARION -- Just as the Marion Fire Department is getting situated in a newly renovated station, the Marion city council on Monday night gave the go-ahead for architects to draw up plans to expand the firehouse.

"This is to continue the effort of revitalizing and updating the Fire Department," said Commissioner Jim Webb in introducing the measure, which allows for architectural proposals to be sought on building an additional two bays to the firehouse.

The current firehouse has 12-foot-high doors that Marion's fleet of fire engines and ladder trucks scoot under by only a few inches, making navigation out of and back into the building a challenge.

Commissioner Doug Patton pictured the scenario.

"You hope there's not a rock in the driveway, right?"

The new bays, which would be added to the south side of the building, would have doors on both ends, eliminating the need to reverse the big red rigs into the tight spaces.

To make room for the bigger station, plans would be to demolish the now-closed Farm Fresh store next door, which the city purchased last year.

The council, with Mayor Anthony Rinella, Webb, Patton and commissioners John Goss and Angelo Hightower, voted 5-0 to approve Carbondale-based White and Borgognoni Architects to draw up blueprints.

Meanwhile, long-held plans for a second firehouse are on the back burner, with commissioners voting to put up for sale a two-acre plot of land on East Main that had been earmarked as a station location.

Goss opposed the sale plans in a 4-1 vote.

"I have high hopes still, of someday in the future, Mr. Mayor, of putting a fire department on the east side of Marion," he said. "It may never happen, but I would like to secure that property in case it was feasible to build a new fire station."

Rinella said that while he too had long hoped to build an east-side firehouse, "it wasn't economically feasible for the city to move forward on that."

At bare minimum, a new station would cost in the range of $5 million to $6 million and require the hiring of at least eight additional firefighters to man it, the mayor said.

Several hundred thousand dollars was spent to bring the current station, built in 1969, up to modern standards, Rinella said.

With the addition of two new bays, the expanded firehouse would serve the city for at least 30 more years, Rinella added.

Furthermore, Rinella took time to tout the city's recently announced lower fire insurance rating, from a 4 to a 2, which will mean reduced insurance premiums for homeowners and businesses.

"This is quite a feat for our fire department. This is called preparedness. It's being proactive rather than reactive," said Rinella, explaining that the Insurance Service Organization rating had been an 8 when he joined the department some 30 years ago.

"I got it lowered to a 4 when I was a chief and maintained it," he said.

However, manpower is still an issue for the Marion Fire Department. Rinella noted that the city had "almost all perfect 10 scores" for its communications, water and firefighting equipment, but the department was still considered undermanned.

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