La Crosse fire chief requests city to delay plans to demolish 80-year-old Fire Station No. 4

The Preservation Alliance of La Crosse recently started a petition calling for the city to save the building
Pic Fire Station Project Change

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The project to demolish the 80-year-old Fire Station No. 4 on Gillette Street has been a waiting game.

“We’ve been talking about replacing the old Station 4,” La Crosse Fire Department chief Ken Gilliam said.

Those plans have been in the works since 2018.

“I’m adjusting strategy now to try and get something done in 2021,” Gilliam said.

But the new station for this year will not replace the department’s oldest one on Gillette Street.

“I think all of us are unaware of things that are going on until they’re brought to our attention,” Gilliam said.

The La Crosse Preservation Alliance recently started a petition calling for the city to save Fire Station No. 4.

It has reached more than 300 signatures.

“It is not our intent whatsoever to delay the progression of building a new fire station,” Preservation Alliance of La Crosse president Barb Kooiman said.

Kooiman says she wants a new station built on Gillette Street this year, but also the current one saved.

“The city has purchased seven lots adjacent to the existing fire station,” Kooiman said.

The alliance’s approach?

“We are looking at what we’ve been calling a win-win situation,” Kooiman said.

And now Gilliam, once keen on getting Fire Station No. 4 torn down, appears to be changing his mind.

“Just decided that instead of putting my head down and fighting this, that maybe there needed to be some more community dialogue about saving the old fire station, and possibly starting over on our plans up there,” Gilliam said.

Gilliam says the near $6 million set aside for the Fire Station 4 project this year can be used to replace the station on Monitor Street instead.

That project was originally budgeted for next year.

“So we’re really just flipping the two stations around on the capital planning,” Gilliam said.

Kooiman says keeping the Gillette Street fire station would put it on the city’s tax rolls, and help the environment.

“We’re hoping that people on the northside, people in the city of La Crosse are hoping too that we can do what’s best for everyone,” Kooiman said.

“I appreciate what they’re trying to do,” Gilliam said. “They’re trying to save old, historic buildings.”

But Gilliam says he wants to finally get a new fire station built.

“If (Station) 4 is going to take another six months to discuss, I say we start working on Station 2,” Gilliam said.

If the new plans go forward, Fire Station No. 2 on Monitor Street will be demolished, and a new fire station will be built on Goosetown Park near the UW-La Crosse campus.

Kooiman says Fire Station No. 4 is eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thursday night, the Heritage Preservation Commission successfully submitted a nomination form recognizing the building as a local historic landmark. The form will be sent to a public hearing scheduled for next month.