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Madison fire truck

A Madison fire truck State Street during the annual Fire Truck Parade in 2014. 

Madison officials are considering the possibility of a joint public safety building on the city’s north side that would combine police and fire facilities.

In his proposed capital budget for 2019, Mayor Paul Soglin included $200,000 in planning funds to study a public safety campus that would include a replacement for the current North District police station on Londonderry Drive, Fire Station No. 10 on Troy Drive and a new police evidence storage facility.

“Combining these multiple police and fire facilities in some way may help to reduce land acquisition and building construction costs,” city Finance Director Dave Schmiedicke said.

The police station at 2033 Londonderry Dr. is undersized for the staff, according to the city. The Madison Police Department also houses evidence in multiple facilities across the city, some of which are leased. In addition, the fire station at 1517 Troy Dr. was built in the 1950s, is aging and also facing space constraints.

These facilities were previously included in the city’s Capital Improvement Plans as individual projects. Funding for construction of the project will be added to a future Capital Improvement Plan when the full project scope is known, according to Soglin's budget proposal.

North District Capt. Brian Ackeret said the current police station, including the parking lot, is too small for the number of  people currently working there. At shift change, police officers have to double park their squad cars and staff members must use on street parking.

Police Chief Steven Davis is supportive of such a facility and said the city missed an opportunity in the early 2000s when Madison built the West District station near Fire Station No. 7 by Elver Park.

“One of the advantages of combining the building is creating a smaller footprint and more efficient and shared spaces,” Davis said.

Also, Davis said the station at 1517 Troy Dr. is showing its age. Due to the smaller space, he said firefighters have to stand sideways in the apparatus bay, where the fire engine is located, to put on their gear.  The building itself is an “energy hog” due to its age and lack of insulation, he said.

“It’s in definite need of either razing and rebuilding on site or some pretty significant investments to bring it up to today's standards on efficiency,” Davis said.

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A major challenge would be to find a location on the north side that would work for the police and fire departments, which is restricted to a 5-minute response time.

Davis is eyeing Warner Park, though Ald. Rebecca Kemble, District 18, said that would be a “political non-starter.” She questioned the proposed funding for the study given the response time constraints.

“I wonder how practical it is given the five-mile radius that the fire department has to have and given the very limited availability of land within that radius for the fire department to be able to relocated,” Kemble said.

The Finance Committee is scheduled to vote on the proposed executive capital budget Sept. 24. The full Council will take up the 2019 capital and operating budgets starting Nov. 13.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.