By Jordan Goltz
Meridian Times staff writer
MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP- The Township Planning Commission is looking to build a new Central Fire Station. The current fire station is located at 5151 Marsh Rd. Plans are for the new construction to be on the south side of Central Park Drive between Okemos Road and the Okemos Post Office.
The Township Board approved the recommendations for the new Fire Station at its Feb. 5, 2013 meeting. However, members of the Meridian Township community were given the chance to appeal this permit at the Oct. 15 meeting.
Bill Persons, a resident of the Autumn Park Condominiums, said the Fire Station should not be constructed at this new site and that the process of all of this wrongly occurred.
“We never got any mail being notified of this construction,” said Persons. “We never got notification of either the Aug. 26 or the Sept. 9 planning commissions meeting.”
Persons and his wife Marie live in Tampa, Florida 10 months a year. They’ve owned their condo on Central Park Drive for three years now, to be closer to their children and grandchildren.
“We got back to Michigan with our neighbors being in an uproar about the fire station being right across the street,” said Persons. “We found out about it when putting out our garbage. Now that’s just doesn’t seem right.”
Attorney Larry Nolan, who represents the of Autumn Park Condominium Association and the 11 individuals associated with ownership in that condominium complex, claims that notification was not done properly.
“Let me make something perfectly clear. I don’t think anybody is saying we shouldn’t have a new fire station,” said Nolan. “My comments are about the location of the new fire station and whether or not it was done appropriately with what we call due process, under the Constitution, which requires notice and discussion.”
This proposed 15,000-square-foot fire station would be placed on 28.49 acres of township owned land. Fire Chief Fred Cowper believes that a new fire station is necessary.
“Corporations came in and looked at our current fire station back in 2012,” said Cowper. “They found that the central fire station is structurally deficient and operationally obsolete and warrants replacement.”
Cowper explained that the township and corporations heading this project looked into tearing down the current fire station and building the new one in its footprint, but required a larger area because of the amount of equipment owned.
“Some advantages of the new site are that it’s owned by the township, it’s located relatively close to the current station, and it has easy access to Okemos Road and Grand River Avenue,” said Cowper.
Some residents complained of noise, but Cowper said that vehicles can go on emergency calls without using their sirens.
“In a five and a half minute response circle from that location, we found we could get to about any area in Meridian Township,” said Cowper. “Especially the areas where we have our biggest populations and our most structures.”
After hearing both sides, the township board voted 5-2 to call into question the permit and the process in which it took place.
“It makes sense to put the fire station on that site,” said Cowper.