JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- The city of Janesville is considering plans to build a new central fire station but it could mean up to a dozen homeowners will lose their houses.
Fire Chief Jim Jensen says the current facility on Milton Avenue is in a great location for response times but it no longer fits the needs of the department. The station was built in 1957 but since then, the city and department have grown.
Jensen tells 27 News there is no space in any of the city's five stations for the equipment the department needs at all times.
"Vehicles have changed-- they've gotten larger-- our city has grown considerably but the station has not," says Jensen. "We've reached the point where something must be done, we can't put it off any longer."
Planners looked at nine different sites for a new station and have narrowed the choice to two options that would keep the offices in the same general location.
One option would be to move the station just north of the existing location. That plan would wipe out 12 homes nearby. Jensen says he prefers this option because they could still use the existing building until the new one is ready, saving money and an additional move.
The second option would be to move the station to a temporary location and demolish the existing building. Plans would rebuild on the same site but expand. This plan would still wipe out seven homes.
Some neighbors tell 27 News they're upset they really have no choice about having to move. One woman, who declined an interview, says she worked past retirement so she could stay in her home that she's lived in for 25 years. She's also concerned that she just invested more than $10,000 in new windows and a furnace that she doesn't expect to get back.
Other neighbors understand how hard it is for some, but have a more positive outlook.
"I was kind of shocked at first, however, I was kinda happy too because this is not my forever home and I was looking to make a move eventually," says Sherry Moran, whose house would be lost under one of the two plans. "I'm happy for the fire station to be expanding, so for me it's not really a huge issue to have to relocate, they're willing to help us do that."
The city is scheduling meetings with affected neighbors to discuss the proposal. The city will offer an appraisal to purchase the properties. Homeowners also may be able to get up to $25,000 for the difference in the cost of a new home, refinancing costs and incidentals, along with reasonable costs of moving and other expenses.
The city council is scheduled to review the two site proposals Monday night and Chief Jensen hopes they'll make a decision so the project can move forward. He anticipates if all goes well, crews would break ground in 2015 and have the new station up and running by mid-2016.
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