Dowagiac approves plans for new fire department, DPS projects

Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2023

DOWAGIAC — A new fire station is on the way for the City of Dowagiac.

The Dowagiac City Council unanimously approved the final design and financing plan for a new fire station and repurposing of the current fire station for Department of Public Services operations so that the Building Authority can proceed with bids and construction for said projects.

The plan calls for a new fire station to be built in the city’s industrial park and repurposing the current fire station to house the daily operations of the Department of Public Services which includes sewer, water, electric and street operations. The anticipated construction cost for the fire station is $4.5 million and the target budget for repurposing is $1.5 million.

In preparation for this project, Council has begun the bonding process and established a maximum borrowing of $5.9 million. Some utility funds will be used to reimburse the General Fund’s investment in the current fire station plus fund the improvements necessary for repurposing the use for DPS.

The city’s financial advisor, Municipal Financial Consultants, estimates that a $5.9 million bond issue paid over 25 years will require payments of $380,000 per year.

The main goals while considering financing are to make sure that the borrowing does not cause for rate increases to utilities and that capital projects for roads, parks and capital projects remains sufficient. 

Over the next several years, the city’s previous borrowings will be paid in full and those funds will be directed towards this new debt. Additionally, allocating no more than 15 percent of current cash flows set aside for capital projects will not adversely impact current capital needs for city utilities or impact utility rates.

“We will be able to do this without any general tax increases,” said City Manager Kevin Anderson. “We’ll be able to do this within the utility budgets.

The fire department relocated to its current building, a rehabbed city-owned building located at 302 Wolf St., approximately 12 years ago. While the renovated building was able to serve its purpose, the city has always thought of the building as a temporary location until it could fund a bonafide fire station. 

“We think it’s a really a good fit for that operation, plus we’ll be able to do a little bit of additional workaround in terms of fencing, screening and reworking some of that exterior a little bit so that it blends in with that whole northwest corridor,” Anderson said. “With all the school work that’s been done there, it should be a nice addition when the public services goes in.”

According to Anderson, the new fire department facility will have five bays for fire department vehicles and equipment, a space for indoor training, an outdoor training area, a dedicated area for our firefighters to decontaminate gear and more.

“It’ll be a nice building,” Anderson said. “It will complement any kind of industrial use that can be there. We spent a lot of time looking at multiple options, but I think this all layers together pretty well.”

The city believes the two projects are integral to the elimination of blight on South Front Street adjacent to the Dowagiac Creek so that new multi-family housing opportunities, funded by private development, will become available in the community.

Dowagiac Fire Department Chief Anthony Stewart said his team is thrilled about the new fire station for Dowagiac and what this means for the city and its first responders. 

“The design process has taken quite some time and has included multiple revisions to the design to ensure the new facility not only meets our current needs but our future needs as well,” he said. “We look forward to watching our new building take shape. Our entire department is thankful for the support of their community leaders who also saw the need and benefit of the new station. An investment in the safety and health of our community and all those who pass through.”