Andrew Reuter
Janesville Deputy Chief Jim Ponkauskus offers a video tour of the under-construction Central Fire Station.

Public gets first look at controversial Janesville fire station

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Jake Magee
October 10, 2015

JANESVILLE—Luann Williams is a big fan of the new Janesville Central Fire Station.

That's because she had to rely on the fire department's quick response when she required an ambulance a couple years ago.

“You don't realize how important something like this is until you actually need to use it,” she said. “I think it's a much-deserved new facility for what these men and women do for us.”

Luann and her husband, Paul Williams, were two of about 60 residents who got a first look at the progress on the new fire station on Milton Avenue during a tour Saturday morning. A staff member from U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson's office and Rep. Deb Kolste herself were included in the tours.

During the rotating 30-minute trips through the station, residents ooh'd and ahh'd at some of the features they had no idea would be included in the project, such as the personal dorms and the upstairs patio that will allow firefighters to grill food. Some even laughed in disbelief at the sheer size of truck bay area, which will feature in-floor heating to melt ice and snow from trucks during the winter.

“I never thought about heated floors, but it appears it's necessary,” said Janesville dweller Pat Burhans after the tour. “I certainly can understand the drainage, but I never thought about the floors being heated. To me, that was interesting.”

While leading a group, Deputy Fire Chief Jim Ponkauskas said the department will preserve the fire pole from the original station and include it in the new one. Using it and digital timers above the trucks will help firefighters improve response times and be on the road in less than a minute and on scene in less than four.

“That minute means a lot to a person that's been in a car accident or a burning building or something in the city,” Paul said.

Pat and her husband, Jerry Burhans, recently retired to Janesville when discussions about the fire station were underway. Both agree the city made the right call by approving the $9 million station and not taking it to referendum, a decision resident Bill McCoy is suing the city over.

“I don't think the community should've decided,” Jerry said. “That's their (city officials') job. That's why we voted for them.”

“It wouldn't be any cheaper 10 years from now to add onto it than it is to do it now,” Pat said. “Change is going to come whether you want it to or whether you are accepting of it. It's going to come, and you have to be able to be flexible enough to change and move ahead with things.”

The Burhans took the tour to know what's going on in the city, but it's personal for Jerry, whose cousin Alex Andreski was made fire chief in the '50s.

“(It's) more nostalgic than anything. We're happy to see the station here,” he said. “We feel that cities need adequate infrastructure.”

The department will hold another tour in January when the project is close to completion. The public will get a final look during the department's ribbon-cutting ceremony slated for spring.

“I'm ready to come back for the next tour, and I'm ready to come back for the grand reopening because I think it's going to be fabulous,” Luann said.

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