Albany County Fire District No. 1 is expected to complete construction of a new firehouse south of Laramie by August 2020 after the State Lands and Investments Board, which consists of Wyoming’s five statewide elected officials, awarded the district $600,000 at its June 20 meeting.
The first district is putting up $200,000 of its own funding for the building, which should lower the homeowner’s insurance rates for about 1,000 homeowners on that side of town, where response times should improve by about 10 minutes once the building is complete.
Since the fire district’s central department was created in October 2016, it’s been housed in a rented building north of Laramie on the Hamaker Excavation property.
The central department now has 32 volunteers and seven engines.
However, the continuing growth on the south side of Laramie has made fire district officials feel that having a station on the south side needs to be a priority for the county.
In the fall, the district paid $146,500 to purchase a 1.62-acre piece of land at the northwest corner of U.S. Highway 287 and Ft. Sanders Road.
The property is still zoned as residential, so the district still needs to get a zoning change before moving forward.
Art Sigel, who chairs the fire district’s board, told the Laramie Boomerang that the district is planning to demolish some of the existing structures on the recently purchased property this year, and hopes to at least start on foundational work of the new firehouse this fall.
The bulk of the construction will occur in 2020, and Sigel said the building should be completed by August.
That’s an important deadline to hit, he said, because there’s an audit of the fire district by the Insurance Service Office scheduled for October 2020.
According to the funding request given to SLIB, having a firehouse south of town is expected to lower insurance rates for about 1,000 homeowners by an average of $200 annually.
Originally, the firehouse was expected to cost up to $3 million.
The district’s lack of finances, however, have required the district to scale back their plans for the time being.
Some of the originally planned amenities, like administrative space and quarters for fire crews to sleep in, have been put on hold until the district has enough funding to build an expansion.
“This building should give us 75% percent of everything we need,” Sigel said.
The district was able to get the total price of the firehouse down to $800,000 by getting a “very standard building” with an “off-the-shelf design,” Sigel said.
“Ninety percent of this building will be for the storage of engines and other equipment,” he said.
Once the building becomes usable, the district still plans to maintain the station it currently has north of town.
“With the growth going on in the county, and the size of the district, we’ll want to have an engine north of Laramie on into the future,” Sigel said.
SLIB received 34 letters of support for the project from Albany County residents, including four local legislators and numerous other public figures.
The fire district is funded by a 3-mill levy, grants, state and federal revenues and some private donations.
The central department is one of five volunteer fire departments in the district.