Maplewood breaks ground on fire-police structure


Maplewood Fire Department personnel lend a hand at the April 14 groundbreaking ceremony for a fire department and police substation to be located at 600 McKnight Road. The new station will replace the one currently at 1177 Century Ave. N., and will include a police substation. (submitted photo)

After some early objections from nearby homeowners, the city of Maplewood finally broke ground on a construction project for a new fire and police substation on Monday, April 14.

“We’re very excited for it to come about in November so we can better and more effectively service the community,” Fire Chief Steve Lukin said. “We needed to get something in the middle of this city, and it was critical we got this going as soon as we can.”

The project’s total cost, including the full 26,000-square-foot area and parking lot, is about $5.5 million. The added space, as Lukin mentioned,  will assist the officers with the option to work from that space, making certain parts of the city more accessible. Like the current fire location, a set of beds will be on-site for on-call fire fighters, and will help replace the pager system they had before.

The building will face McKnight Road between Conway and Minnehaha avenues and be directly across the street from homes on St. Paul’s East Side. The land was donated by 3M to the city of Maplewood and is just northeast of the company’s international headquarters. It will feature four fire department apparatus bays, departmental offices and staff support spaces.

“It was a long, difficult process, but we have a great partnership with 3M, (and) great assistance from the city council,” City Manager Chuck Ahl said. “It’s pretty exciting ... when you finally see construction underway.”

Though still in the early stages, there haven’t been any major construction issues so far.

“The contractor has been great,” said Michael Thompson, Maplewood public works director. “They’re already meeting the schedule and moving forwarding and coordinating all the subcontractors. So far, everything is going very smoothly.”

The actual planning process, however, experienced a few bumps along the way. East Siders living across the street from the new fire station and police substation were initially upset when they found out about Maplewood’s plans.

They asserted they would have the inconvenience of being awakened by blaring sirens in the middle of the night but would reap none of the benefits of getting the use the station’s emergency services since they’re in St. Paul’s jurisdiction.

When there’s a fire emergency in their neighborhood, the homeowners pointed out that a fire truck would be dispatched from a St. Paul fire hall that’s several miles away and not from the new Maplewood station that will be just across the street.

Thompson mentioned an earlier public meeting, where he said Lukin told the crowd that if a neighboring house is on fire, Maplewood firefighters would respond. This, as far as Thompson has seen, alleviated the St. Paul residents’ concerns.

Chief Lukin, while admitting the subject is somewhat out of his department, agreed.

“We haven’t heard another word. We’ve had good talks with the neighborhood.”

The construction timeline is to have the station ready for full use by early November.

Tim Faklis can be reached at tfaklis@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7814.
 

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