By Katie Dudlets
The Meridian Times Staff Reporter
OKEMOS — The new Central Fire Station located at the corner of Okemos Road and Central Park Drive comes in a larger context of infrastructure redevelopment for Meridian Township. It has been fully-operational and providing emergency services since January. Fire Chief Fred Cowper believes this move from the antiquated station on Clinton Street to the new one was entirely necessary. “The [Clinton Street] fire station that we closed was built in 1957, and in 1957 there weren’t females in the fire service in our country,” said Cowper. “So it lacked separate bathrooms, showers and dormitories.
The community gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony for the township’s new Central Fire Station on Tuesday, March 31. The township board of trustees approved the bid for the fire station, located off the corner of Okemos Road and Central Park Drive, earlier in March, despite some controversy. Fire Chief Fred Cowper said that the problems nearby condominium residents had with the fire station will no longer complicate its future. Cowper said, “It’s the visible beginning, the new milestone in the journey of our fire department. What happened in the past is in the past and we move forward—that’s the way I look at it.
After years of lawsuits and court rulings, plans for the Central Fire Station construction are moving forward. The Meridian Township project has been on hold since 2012 after residents of the neighboring condominium complex sued the township in hopes of receiving a court order to stop progress on the site. “Now we’re waiting for the Michigan Supreme Court,” Meridian Township Treasurer Julie Brixie said. “The (condominium residents) have appealed the decision, but we have won all the way up and we’re waiting for the Supreme Court to reject it.”
Although there has not been an answer from the Michigan Supreme Court, the project is allowed to move forward because the court order to stop any progress was not granted to the residents of Autumn Park condominiums.
“When I arrived here to be the fire chief in 1998, some of the first things I looked at were equipment, the chain of command and the fire station replacement as one of the top priorities,” Fire Chief Fred Cowper said. “So we now have put a lot of work and effort in making that happen.”
The new Central Fire Station will be at the corner of Okemos Road and Central Park Drive, and includes space for the fire department’s administrative offices, new living areas for firefighters and will be up to “green” standards.