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Bozeman Fire Department eyes new station with bond on the ballot

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Fire Chief Josh Waldo walks MTN News through the living area of Fire Station No. 2.jpg
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Posted at 6:32 AM, Oct 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 08:32:59-04

Next week, ballots for the November general election will be hitting your mailboxes—with tens of millions of dollars worth of possible bond items set to be on them.

On Wednesday, MTN News told you about Gallatin County’s sole item, replacing the Law and Justice Center.

We now begin breaking down the City of Bozeman’s three bond issues, starting with how the fire department is looking for a new home.

According to Bozeman City Fire Chief Josh Waldo, having a fire station alongside one of the busiest thoroughfares in Bozeman since 1974 is just one of a litany of issues.

This $6.7 million bond would move Station 2 to a new home.

This bond, according to the fire chief, would give them the opportunity to move the station to a lot on MSU’s campus, growing a partnership and extending their range to the south.

“So just the firefighter work area, you can see it is kind of small,” Waldo said, pointing to the front office of Station 2 off of 19th Avenue.

For Chief Waldo, it’s 4,300 square feet of fire station that has the words “multi-purpose” tacked to each room inside.

“This is the day room, the living room—this is another office,” Waldo said, walking through the station’s main living area while pointing to a computer at a desk in the corner.

Waldo then pointed to the adjacent kitchen area, saying: “When you get four firefighters in here, trying to cook, have lunch, have breakfast, whatever, it gets really small in a hurry.”

“We’re talking about an investment in public safety which is one of the key things that our community needs,” Waldo says.

And as you can expect, just walking around in there can get pretty tight.

“It’s been a great facility,” Waldo says. “It served this community for 46 years but the community has grown and we’ve grown and we need more space.”

Twelve firefighters, four at a time, serving 48-hour shifts share the space with a building that hasn’t changed since 1974; from one bathroom for both men and women to four beds to sleep in.

The bond points to another opportunity: move Station 2 to an area of land along Kagy across from the Museum of the Rockies with growth driving the need.

“The city started making adjustments to the fire station locations with the Bozeman Public Safety Center and this is just the second phase of that and this will not be the last fire station that we build in this community,” Waldo says.

After 46 years, a lot has changed in the City of Bozeman, from a coverage area of about 18,000 people to more than 50,000 for Station 2, so they need the space not just for that but for their staff.

So for you to know, with that $6.7 million bond, that would be about $18.83 per year more on a property tax if your home was assessed at about $364,000.

“Public safety is a critical infrastructure for this city,” Waldo says.

Another issue: trying to turn out of the station into that busy traffic.

“Just as the city has grown, our traffic count has grown and 19th is just one of the busiest streets in our community,” Waldo says. “It is difficult, not only getting out but coming back in.”

As the renderings show a brighter, larger future for the station, Waldo says it is up to the voters.

“We’re going to continue to grow and we have got to make these investments now so that we can start getting ahead a little bit, start planning for the future,” Waldo says.