St. Paul officials critical of new Maplewood Fire Station


A rendering of the new Maplewood fire station shows its four bays as it would look from McKnight Road. (submitted image)

Neighborhood objects to loud sirens and bright lights

Patrick Larkin
Review staff

As plans move forward for a new fire station for Maplewood, St. Paul city officials say the city and its residents were left out of the planning process.

“I wish I could unring the bell,” said city council president Kathy Lantry, who represents the St. Paul neighborhood across the street from the proposed Maplewood fire station. “I had no idea.”

The facility will be built on the 3M campus along the east side of McKnight Road, halfway between Conway and Minnehaha avenues, right on the border of the two cities.

According to Maplewood fire chief Steve Lukin, the new station will be constructed on land donated by 3M. The project will go to bid in December, he said, with the goal of starting construction early spring 2014, and occupying it next November. A 2012 estimate for the total cost of the project, including the four-bay, 26,000-square-foot structure and surrounding parking lots and patios, was around $5,525,000.

Betsy Leach, director of the District 1 Community Council in St. Paul, said she’s unhappy with how late in the game St. Paul residents heard about the plans.

“It should have gone through a genuine community process that included the residents who would be affected,” she said.

Now, it’s too late to change anything, she added.

She said she’d spoken with Maplewood city planners, and the word was this: “They basically say, yeah, it’s going to affect you, come and voice your dismay, but they’re not going to change their plans.”

Leach said, “I don’t think there’s anything we could do about it.”

While the new station won’t be close to any Maplewood houses, it will indeed be right across McKnight Road from St. Paul residences.

Lukin said a few St. Paulites attended an Oct. 2 meeting, expressing concerns about the possibility of sirens and bright lights.

“Unfortunately, there will be a little extra light and sirens,” Lukin said.

He said in total the fire station might see somewhere between 800 and 1,000 calls annually.

“Unfortunately there will be a little extra lights and sirens,” he said, but “it’s not like there’s going to be one every hour.”

He said that the fire department looked into leaving the facility without sirens and lights, but since McKnight is a large, busy road, the lights and sound is needed for safety reasons.

“Late at night, we’ll try to be as courteous as we can,” he said.

In total the department sees about 4,500 emergency calls a year, he said.

“I have no doubt that the city of Maplewood and 3M had a very thoughtful process,” Lantry said. But they forgot the St. Paul residents, she said.

To add to their displeasure, the St. Paul residents will not receive fire service from the station that’s 75 feet away from them, Lantry said.

Still, Lantry acknowledged that “everyone understands that emergency personnel need to be housed somewhere.” 

Chuck Ahl, city manager for Maplewood, said that legalistically, the city did what it was required to in terms of notifying St. Paul residents.

But “with 20/20 hindsight ... it would have been a courtesy to let them know (earlier),” he said. “But that’s not always easy,” he added.

The land donation from 3M is still pending, he said. The grassy field is at the northwest corner of 3M’s international headquarters and south of the Wells Fargo Bank.

Cross-city communication woes are nothing new, Ahl said. “That issue between St. Paul and Maplewood has been around for years.”

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com.

 

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