Bureau of Aeronautics raises no objections to airport site for new Boyceville fire station

By LeAnn R. Ralph

BOYCEVILLE  —  A representative for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Aeronautics says it would be acceptable to build a new fire station next to the Boyceville airport as long as the building meets height restrictions.

Kim Kaarto, an airport engineering specialist with the Bureau of Aeronautics — Wisconsin Department of Transportation, met the afternoon of March 15 with members of the Boyceville Community Fire District Board at the proposed site for a new fire station located directly behind the former BP Convenience Store on state Highway 79.

Cedar Country Cooperative purchased the BP Convenience Store in the fall of 2015 and moved the Cedar Country Cooperative store on state Highway 170 to the Highway 79 location.

The approximately five-acre site east of the convenience store is owned by the Village of Boyceville.

Helipad

Gilbert Krueger, Boyceville village president and chair of the fire board, said if the fire station were built on the site next to the airport, the access road would have to occupy a small portion of the airport property. 

Kaarto said the Federal Aviation Administration would not allow any part of the fire station project on airport property.

The airport “was paid for with federal aviation dollars, so you would have to do a land release, and (the FAA is) not in support of doing that. You would have to show good cause,” she said.

Fire board members also have talked about building a new helipad next to the new fire station.

On the other hand, if the proposed fire station were to include a new helipad, the helipad would be allowed on airport property, Kaarto said.

The existing helipad is on the north side of the airport and requires the fire trucks and ambulance to drive down the taxiway to reach the helipad when someone needs medical transport. 

A new helipad with a new fire station next to it would require “access to the helicopter pad for the ambulance, so you would need an approach with a driveway,” said Mike Blechinger, representative for the Town of Tiffany.

“In that case, you could say the road for the helipad could be on airport property, and if the road could have dual use, perhaps that would be acceptable (to the FAA). Make it work for both, for the helipad and for the fire station,” Kaarto said.

“We want to tie it all together,” Krueger said.

“You never know how often you’re going to need that — but they talk about the Golden Hour for a lot of things. When you are waiting another minute (for medical attention), it can be a long time,” he said.

For the existing helipad, the fire trucks and ambulance “have to drive down the taxiway, past the hangars, to get around over there,” Blechinger said.

Hangar homes

Blechinger noted that at one time, there had been talk of building “hangar homes” on the village property currently under consideration as a possible site for the new fire station.

The idea has come up maybe three times over the past 20 years, Krueger said.

Kaarto said she has never dealt with hangar homes.

“It doesn’t work. Usually it is a private airport, a private development. We don’t support it because it’s a ‘through the fence’ operation, and you have to control what’s happening on private property as well as on airport property. It’s a mess,” she said.

The Village of Boyceville owns perhaps as much as 15 acres near the airport.

The lot under consideration for a fire station takes up about five acres of the property owned by the village.

Because of the elevation and the proximity to the airport, anything built on the site in question could be no higher than 1,005 feet, Kaarto said.

If, for example, the elevation were 970 feet where the fire station is located, the height of the building could be no more than 35 feet to bring the total up to 1,005.

The sign on the restroom at the airport indicates an elevation of 960 feet, said Don Rose, director of public works and a member of the fire department.

The proposed site for a fire station, which is south of the restrooms, is higher in elevation than the location of the restrooms.

The tallest flagpole at the airport is 32 feet, Blechinger noted. 

Architects with Five Bugles Design, the company the Boyceville fire board has selected to design the new fire station, have talked about putting a hose drying tower in the fire department’s new building.

Location

Once the Boyceville fire board determines an exact location for the new fire station, the fire board and the Bureau of Aeronautics would work together to establish a location for the helipad, Kaarto said.

The Bureau of Aeronautics would design the helipad and would hire the contractors to build the helipad, Kaarto said. 

Firefighter Danny Knops said that when the fire trucks and the ambulance arrive for a medical transport, local residents have been known to drive into the airport and down the taxiway after the fire trucks and ambulance just to “find out what’s going on.”

There are no signs or gates prohibiting private citizens from chasing the fire trucks and ambulance, he said.

With a designated medical transport helipad, the medical helicopters would know where to land, Knops said.

Sometimes, if the helicopter arrives before the fire trucks have arrived to set up a landing zone, the helicopters have landed by the bank or elsewhere in the vicinity, he said.

Boyceville already has federal aviation money waiting in an account at the DOT that would be used to pay for the helipad. The village would have to contribute five percent of the project, but federal money would pay for the rest of the helipad, Kaarto said. 

“You have money for it. You have aviation funds,” she said. 

An airspace review also would be needed for the new fire station on the lot in question, and the airspace review would be done out of the Bureau of Aeronautics office, Kaarto said. 

What’s next?

Kaarto wondered about the schedule for the fire station project.

“We have not had a kick-off meeting yet to schedule the project,” said David Cihasky, the architect with Five Bugles Design who would be designing the new fire station.

“The site location is the predominant factor for a kick-off meeting. If this site is going to work, that answers the question. The fire commission needs to establish if this is the site they want to use, and we can move forward from there,” he said.

The schedule for designing the project, bidding and construction of the new fire station is up to the Boyceville fire board, Cihasky said. 

“We have talked about the possibility of bidding it this fall yet,” Krueger said. 

Once the building location is established and there is a design, that information would go to the FAA, Kaarto said. 

The Bureau of Aeronautics will take care of the helipad, and the fire board can decide if the helipad should be built before the fire station is built, while the fire station is being built or after the fire station is completed, Kaarto said. 

After Five Bugles has designed the new fire station and has established cost estimates, each of the villages and townships that are members of the Boyceville fire district will have to approve building a new fire station and will have to establish how they are going to pay for their share of the project.

The cost distribution is expected to be established by percentage of property value in the fire district.

For example, if the new fire station will cost $2 million and a township or a village has 10 percent of the property value in the fire district, the township or village would pay $200,000 toward the new fire station.

Presumably, if one township or village does not approve the project, building the new fire station cannot move forward.

A price for the village’s property east of the Cedar Country Cooperative convenience store has not yet been determined.