Fire and police departments in La Crosse discussing plans for future public safety center

The safety center is outlined in the city's new CIP budget

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – One of the proposals in La Crosse’s 2021-2025 Capital Improvement Budget is a public safety center.

The building would combine elements for both the fire and police departments in La Crosse.

The top priority for the La Crosse Fire and Police Departments is to protect and serve the community, but they first need the resources to do so.

“Certainly, a lot of our facilities for what the police department needs are fairly dated, similar to the fire departments,” fire chief Ken Gilliam said. “And with that, is there an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone?”

Both departments are exploring ideas for a public safety center to be built in the future.

“I think where there’s some potential savings for the community is duplication of effort, be it machine rooms, or support staff,” Gilliam said.

The concept is gaining support from top city leaders.

“The money that the mayor put into capital planning for next year was really just to initially look at first up opportunities on property,” Gilliam said. “We’d have some money there to at least start to look at the footprint that we need.”

In the city’s budget summary report, a million dollars has already been set aside. Potentially a combined $35 million more is coming in 2023 and 2024.

Gilliam says a specific location has not been determined, but he has a few ideas in mind.

“We’re looking at land masses around the existing stations,” Gilliam said. “We’re looking at the area around city hall.”

Gilliam says the pandemic has temporarily put a halt to some plans for the center, but he is hoping they can resume talks in the fall.

“I think anytime we can look at breaking down silos within the city or even regionally, I’ve certainly been very open to those discussions of where can we partner together to save everyone a little bit,” Gilliam said.

The budget also has money saved up for work on two other fire stations. $5.75 million will go towards replacing fire station four on the north side on Gillette Street in 2021. About $6.7 million is being used for construction on a new station at 33rd and Mormon Coulee Road in 2023.