Morris City Council and Fire District Unite to Build New Fire Hall – Shaw Local

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MORRIS – Construction of a new fire hall in Morris moved closer to becoming a reality this month after city and fire officials reached an agreement to purchase the land where it will be built before a bank closure expected later this week.

Under the deal, which was approved by a 9-0 vote, the city would spend $321,000 to purchase the two existing Morris Fire Protection District buildings. The fire district, meanwhile, would purchase the land where the new fire hall will be built at 200 Armstrong Street, which is adjacent to the existing municipal building.

“This new property allows us to still be downtown, without being right downtown,” Morris Fire Chief Tracy said.

Morris City Council approved at the March 21 City Council meeting the intergovernmental agreement with the Morris Fire Protection District needed to move forward. As part of the agreement, the city council also approved the transfer of ownership, construction of a new fire station, and ownership, maintenance and use of a historic steamship.

Construction of the new Morris Fire Station could begin this year and take around 18 to 20 months. The fire protection district is scheduled to close on the property this Friday at noon.

Morris Mayor Chris Brown and Fire Chief Tracy Steffes shake hands after City Council approved the transfer of ownership, the construction of a new fire hall and the possession, maintenance and use of the historic steamship.

The deal reached this month dates back to a 1991 deal when the City of Morris first sold the property to the Fire Protection District. As part of this agreement, the city agreed to eventually buy out the buildings.

Now the city has agreed to buy out the buildings for $321,000, the price the fire protection district will spend on the land. The construction cost of the new fire station is still uncertain.

Steffes said the fire department has outgrown its current downtown space and needs a location that takes into account safety and the need for station accommodations, as it was never intended to be used as it is now.

“There’s no more use of fire for us in this building, there really isn’t. It’s not big enough for us anymore. It was never intended for a fire station, when we were all volunteers and just needed a place to house gear like a garage, it worked for that,” Steffes said. “It’s been a long time coming, the community has reached this point .”

The American Legion was being considered as a new property for the Fire Department, as the neighborhood wanted to remain downtown, but ultimately it was decided not to, as it would create a loss of parking.

“I always thought we needed a downtown presence,” Steffes said. “But, it’s difficult with the size of the equipment, the people and finding enough real estate to do it safely downtown. Okay, now if you walk out of the downtown fire station, you’re right on the sidewalk.

Community and firefighter safety were integral to the need for a new fire station, Steffes said.

“For safety reasons, you’re not going through traffic and you’re probably about 60-90 seconds closer to a call on the east side because you’re avoiding Route 47. It’s just a good location all around,” Brown said. You enter the city, you will see two very beautiful municipal buildings, which will lead directly to the city center.

Once construction of the new fire hall is complete, the city will own the two fire buildings that the Morris Fire Department currently occupies.

“We would like to commercialize the buildings and one of the things we continually hear is restaurants and more things to do. So being right in our downtown, it gives us the opportunity to market the buildings for higher use,” Brown said.

The city will have to make a decision about the building on the west side, as it houses the equipment needed to operate one of the city’s wells.

The historical significance of the current fire station and its contents will not be overlooked when building a new fire station, according to Brown.

“We are trying to preserve some historic buildings that are downtown for a good purpose. In the past, we can talk about historic buildings that have been demolished or not maintained. It would be nice to find an investor or someone who wants to come in and take care of it – to make it a nice piece for our downtown to try and keep these buildings active and useful,” Brown said.

The new fire station will be open to the public with a walk-through area to display the steamship and other historical artifacts.

“We have an original piece of equipment that the city bought in 1868. We have a 1927 American Lafrance. Inside this new fire station there will be room to display them and house them properly. They will be in an air-conditioned room and in a building with a sprinkler system and a fire alarm system to elevate any damage from an accidental fire,” Steffes said.

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