JANESVILLE, Wis. - Janesville's Central Fire Station hasn't been upgraded in nearly 60 years, according to Fire Chief Jim Jensen.
The Plan Commission recently recommended a $9.4 million renovation option, but if City Council members approve it, up to 12 homes will be destroyed around the fire department on Milton Avenue.
Jensen said he evaluated nine other possible locations, but they were too small or too far away to guarantee a quick response time. Disgruntled homeowners have one last shot to have their voices heard at the upcoming council meeting.
"We can speak our peace, but I don't think at this stage in the game it will make a bit of difference," said Joyce Shea, who lives on Prospect Avenue a block behind the fire station. "They're just not taking our homes away, they're taking a neighborhood away."
Shea has lived in her home for 24 years. Jensen said residents would receive relocation costs and their home's sales price.
"Obviously we need a larger station than in 1957," Jensen said.
The proposal covers 2.5 acres, and includes dorms for 24 male and female firefighters and eight vehicle bays.
"Quite often we have to move vehicles around before we respond to an emergency; that leads to delays and we're trying to alleviate that," Jensen said.
Crews are trying to improve the standard four-minute response time, and Jensen said the current Milton Avenue location is closest to the nearly 8,000 calls the department gets a year.
As for Shea, she said she wants to stay in her home and won't back down even when she's gone -- literally.
"I'm going to come back," she said. "I'm going to haunt the station and every time the firefighters fall asleep, I'm going to ring the bell."
"We're trying to work with them and be as fair as possible in the process and hopefully come up with an acceptable solution," Jensen said.
The issue will go before council members on April 14. Residents can speak then. If the plans are approved, the chief said construction could start as early as next spring.
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