By Wade Coggeshall
INDIANAPOLIS — The unclasping of a water hose, symbolizing a ribbon-cutting, marked the official dedication of Wayne Township's new Fire Station 82 on Saturday morning.
Township board members and fire department personnel were present to meet with the public. The ceremony also marked the dedication of the new Wayne Township Government Center. Both facilities are side by side on Washington Street, just west of Lynhurst Drive.
Division Chief Mike Pruitt noted the beautiful day when welcoming everyone to the ceremony.
"Today's weather symbolizes the luck we've had throughout the construction process," he said.
The actual construction took about a year. The process for a new firehouse, however, took much longer than that.
Wayne Township Fire Chief Gene Konzen dates it all the way back to 1981. That's when the then fire chief decided to condense Wayne Township's nine stations to its current five. Two were combined at this location, 5401 W. Washington St., and housed in a renovated Kroger store.
"It was never really built as a firehouse, but they made it into a firehouse," Konzen said of that facility.
In 1999 the station became a combination department to include medics, which entailed yet more remodeling. By 2005 officials decided they needed a new building.
"It didn't make sense to remodel it because it already had been several times, and it no longer fit our needs," Konzen said. "Anyone who was in it knew that; there were beams cut out, you had to duck in places, all kinds of interesting things."
The fire department began setting aside part of its budget for a new station. By last year they had saved $5 million, which also was enough to renovate the other four firehouses. They looked at other locations for Station 82, but decided to stay put. Building a whole new facility, however, required using a makeshift firehouse that was in back.
Firefighters and medics moved into their new work home on Sept. 29.
"They definitely appreciate this compared to the little house, which they called the frat house," Konzen said.
Pruitt says the new station is "more designed for the modern-day firefighter and the atmosphere he works in."
It used to be that they'd sleep in something like a barracks. Once more women became firefighters, everyone started getting their own rooms, though in the former station those were only separated by dividers. The new facility is much like a dorm, with a communal gym, kitchen, and TV room.
Konzen also notes that in the past when an alarm sounded it would wake the whole station. The new facility is programmed to only alert specific units.
"We've found health-wise that that shock of waking up that many times in the night is bad," Konzen said. "If you actually do get a call and burn off that adrenaline, that's good. But if it's just waking you up and now you've got to try to fall back asleep, it really messes you up."
Konzen's proud the fire department was able to budget for this new facility, despite battling with some legislators who didn't understand why they were doing what they were.
"A lot of times you have to raise taxes or buy a bond for something like this," he said. "This is what we figured was the best way to go."
Pruitt isn't concerned that firefighters stationed elsewhere will be envious of the new digs.
"One of the things that comes with building a new firehouse is that you have to keep it looking nice for a long time," he said. "So I don't think they'll be jealous on that side of it."