Fire district says new firehouse in Wildwood is in jeopardy amid city pushback

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 10:29 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2022 at 11:00 PM CDT
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WILDWOOD, Mo. (KMOV) - The city of Wildwood is under fire for holding up construction of a new firehouse for the Monarch Fire Protection District.

Voters approved A bond issue in 2020 to build two new fire stations and acquire new fire trucks. The city said it has been left out of the process.

Wildwood resident William Ballard sold 1.3 acres of his land more than a half-century ago to the Monarch Fire Protection District to build the current House 2. He said neighbors along Wild Horse Creek Road are always asking when construction on the new fire house will start.

“By now, at least I would see a building going up or almost finished by now,” Ballard said.

Voters approved a bond issue in 2020 for two new firehouses and three new trucks. The fire district bid on those houses separately and together. Monarch leaders found the best deal was to build the two firehouses simultaneously for $12 million, or $6 million a piece.

Monarch firefighters said they feel left in the dark about their $6 million station.

“This is probably has to be the single most disappointing thing in my 43-year career,” Monarch Assistant Chief Les Crews said.

Crews said the district has outgrown this current facility, built 52 years ago.

The Monarch Fire Protection District covers 62 square miles of west St. Louis County. That area includes parts of Ballwin, Chesterfield, Maryland Heights, Clarkson Valley, Creve Coeur, Town & Country and some unincorporated St. Louis County.

Crews said there’s a need to house larger vehicles, co-ed quarters, and store a new ALS ambulance.

“Those red lines represent travel times from the three closest ambulances in our district. You’ll notice on the left side, there is a hole in coverage. Once that new ambulance is put into service, you’ll see those green lines come up and fill up that hole. That’s what we want to do, that’s the increased service we want to give,” Crews said.

Crews said a Conditional Use Permit to start construction was granted a year ago, then taken away. News 4 is told the city followed up requesting additional studies and tests, further delaying construction.

“That’s not exactly accurate,” Mayor Jim Bowlin said outside of city hall.

Bowlin said the fire district didn’t include the city in finding land for the new facility or securing needed permits.

“We spent this last year, really with nothing happening because of Monarch’s position that it didn’t have to do anything the city asked it to do, and it essentially ignored us,” Bowlin shared. “Then the judge said they can’t do that.”

Bowlin is referring to the Monarch Fire Protection District’s request for a preliminary injunction. It was denied. Monarch Fire told News 4 a judge has not ordered the fire district to perform any testing or submit results. Any additional requests came from Wildwood.

Bowlin’s big concern is a recent traffic study conducted by the city with Monarch, showing response times may increase by 10 seconds.

“I would be concerned about our residents believing we did our job if we just signed off without further review,” Bowlin said.

Monarch doesn’t deny that delay. Assistant Chief Crews said the fire district wants to build the new station 3/10 of a mile east of the current location.

The city requires the district to build on a two-acre plot of land. That means it’s not an option for the district to build on top of the 1.3 acres House 2 currently sits on.

“We need this facility.” Crews shared. “It’s not about us, it’s about them.”

Monarch said this project is now a year behind, with the original completion date set for the end of 2022.

The fire district is optimistic for a green light to start construction in the next few days. If not, a trial date is set for this Friday regarding Monarch’s request for a permanent injunction to allow the district to start construction.

Construction got underway earlier this year for the second firehouse, on the opposite side of the district - near Olive and Mason, near BJC West.

That facility has a foundation poured and walls going up. When finished, it will look and cost the same amount as the facility proposed in Wildwood.

That station was supposed to be the second firehouse, built but was flipped because of delays