By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- Just one look shows how the Pittsfield Fire Department has simply outgrown its space.
"The way the trucks are sitting in there now, stacked front to back instead of all having their own door to come out ... with certain calls, we have to move a truck to get to a truck," Fire Chief Jason White said. "Not only has our mode of operations changed with the amount of ground we cover, but our trucks have gotten bigger.
"Our firehouse hasn't grown at all."
The Fire Department and the city plan to build a new fire station to provide easier access, more space and a way to meet current and future needs.
"If things went extremely well, we might put shovels in the ground maybe in the fall. If things go slower, then it will be in spring. It just depends on funding," White said.
Plans call for a 72-foot by 86-foot structure on property the city owns immediately east of the current fire station at the intersection of Jefferson and Monroe.
"They need it bad. I don't think I even realized (how bad) until I took a tour last year," Mayor John Hayden said.
He admitted he had to turn sideways to walk between the trucks in the cramped space.
Four drive-out overhead doors on the shorter side of the building will face Jefferson, with an entrance to offices and a meeting room facing Monroe. An equipment room to fill air bottles and clean bunker gear is planned, along with two ADA-compliant restrooms, a kitchen and a meeting/training room. A fifth overhead door facing to the south will provide access for a longer truck, if needed, and serve as a wash bay.
"This will be something great for the guys, great for the community," White said. "It will just make our whole way we go about things better."
The new building will house the department's four big trucks. Plans call for using the current building, built in 1958, for the brush truck, the special operations trailer for hunter and farm rescues and additional storage.
"We've got a good 50 years plus out of the building," White said. "It still will be a functioning building."
Work toward a new building began around five years ago, White said. Firefighters, with the City Council's blessing, began to develop formal plans last spring.
"We made several site visits to other towns our size to see things they implemented, then sat down with the architect, the engineer," White said.
"They put a lot of thought into this. It's been a labor of love for the fire department," city engineer Max Middendorf said. "It's a basic use of space with an eye toward the future. As the department does grow and needs change, they've got some flexibility with the structure."
After plans are finalized and a bid accepted, Middendorf said construction should take six months. Officials expect the building to cost around $600,000.
"We've been earmarking around $20,000 a year, depending how well the budget went," White said. "We've got a little over $100,000 set back, and we're going to look at some other funding options."
Hayden said the city will work the U.S. Department of Agriculture on a long-term loan for the project, hoping to structure the repayment plan so the current amount set aside each year will cover the cost. Grant funding could be available to incorporate energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems.
The department plans a community campaign, with details still to be finalized, to underwrite a portion of the project cost.
"We'd kind of like to put a generator in it for when the power goes out, add an exhaust system so guys won't be breathing fumes off the trucks," White said.
The department also will be working on "a game plan on things to do to help rehab the existing building," Middendorf said.
"We've got our work cut out for us, but we're going in the right direction," White said. "When you outgrow something, it starts to look cluttered. If you get organized, where everything has a place, it really boosts the morale and will make the guys feel better about the cause and what we're doing."