According to Solon Fire Chief, Bob Siddell, fundraising progress continues and is moving in the right direction. “We still have some more to go, but we’re moving along.” Siddell explained the project still needs funding for the garden wall — which serves as the platform for the station’s signage at the front of the building.
“We’re also constructing a 40’-ft. x 40’-ft. storage shed that will be used to store tables, chairs, and other fire equipment,” he explained. He said cost for the garden wall and storage building is approximately $175K.
The Solon Fire Department covers a fire district of 112 square miles — the largest in Johnson County. As fundraising efforts continue to be strong, Siddell says they’ve received $10,000 from Iowa City Toyota. He also said Solon firefighters have raised $1.3 million towards the new station. “$500K of that was donated from the Munson Family Trust.”
The new state-of-the-art station has been four years in the making, and Siddell explained one of the guiding factors for him was the need to build a new station away from the current location.
“I wanted to get away from downtown. Solon is growing and there is a lot more pedestrian traffic as well as events. Plus, we’re landlocked at our current location. The new site allows us to grow.”
At approximately 18,000 square feet, the new fire station will be more than double the size of the current building. And the new eight bay station will occupy two lots with just over 2.6 acres. Garling Construction, Belle Plaine, has been contracted to build the station at a cost of $3.624 million. With construction slated to begin in late September, Siddell said, if everything goes well the department should be able to be moved in by September, 2022.
“The biggest hurdle as I understand, is getting supplies at this point,” he explained. “Metal for building won’t be available until next February.” He said site work for the building should begin in later September, that includes locating existing underground lines, storm sewer rerouting, footings, foundation work, back fill and final grading. Public Works Director, Scott Kleppe, is serving as project manager for the new fire station.
Designed for the future
“The new station will take us forty, fifty years out, and will meet the needs of the community for decades,” Siddell said. Currently Solon Fire Department has 30 volunteer firefighters. Johnson County Supervisors contributed $50K towards the project with the anticipated goal of housing an ambulance service. “When the need arises, we’ll have the room.”
Siddell explained during early planning stages, members went to other departments in the region to get ideas for the new station. “We went around to area stations to see what worked and what didn’t,” he explained. “A lot of thought and planning when into this station.”
As Solon continues to grow, Siddell explained the department has seen an uptick in service calls.
“Last month (July) we went on 60 calls. In 2020, we had 483 calls for service.” He noted that when he began his career it was not unusual to go on 60- to 70-calls per year. A 36-year veteran of the Solon fire department, Siddell has served the last seven as fire chief.
“I grew up being involved in the community,” he said. “My dad was on the Hiawatha Fire Department for many years.” Siddell’s son, Jordon, and brother, Robin, also serve on the Solon Fire Department.
Other area communities are also in various stages of building or planning new fire stations, and Siddell noted many of those areas are also witnessing much development and growth. “These communities are growing at very fast rates, and emergency services have changed dramatically and have evolved over the years to keep up with it.”
He credits Mayor Steve Stange, the city council, township trustees and the fire department agency board with the foresight and assistance to build the new station. “We appreciate everyone involved who has helped us and donated to the project,” he said. “And it is enough to get us moved in next year.”
Siddell says that when the new station is complete, “it will be something everyone will be proud of.”