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Upgrading HQ
In 2011, members of the New Glarus Fire Department had to make a decision whether or not to upgrade their current building or start from scratch. They decided to begin raising money to complete both an upgrade and an addition. The three-part plan will start with a new blacktop parking lot. Work will begin in late May. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
NEW GLARUS - Build an addition or a new structure - that was the debate on the minds of New Glarus Fire Department members in 2011.

The next question was how to pay for it.

"We came up with the concept in about 2011 and brought it to the fire department members in 2012 of the possibility of a remodel and addition, and funding it by ourselves," New Glarus Fire Chief Dave Anderson said.

Built nearly 40 years ago in 1981, the current New Glarus Fire Station has been in need of technological updates for several years, as well as increased space. It wasn't hard to get members on board with the idea to not only pursue a remodel and addition but to raise the money themselves without going to municipalities or districts for assistance, Anderson said.

Firefighter Josh Rabel said they secured permission in 2012 to move ahead with the project. They learned costs would reach about $500,000 for the new structure; today, nearly half of that has been raised by the department through multiple fundraisers and events.

The three-part plan involves starting with the construction of a blacktop parking lot in late May, Rabel said. Then, they'll work on the outer shell of the building until finally working on the inside for carpeting, drywall and more.

"There is no end date as of yet," Rabel said.

Fundraising has come in the form of parades, festivals, dances and, up until last year, a golf outing.

"We had the golf outing from 2013-17 as an annual fundraiser and raised about $5,500 annually," Rabel said. "We decided to scrap the outing for a sports banquet. All of the money for these events brought in money for operating costs for the department, and 35 percent of the profits is set aside for the new addition."

After beginning to raise the money themselves, various municipalities for the fire department's district - parts of the village and township of New Glarus, York township and Primrose - decided to pitch in.

"We did not go to the district - they came to us," Rabel said. "They recognized that we needed help."

In total, the municipalities gave the department an extra $100,000 toward the project, pushing its current raised contributions to about $323,000.

The department has already purchased the property directly behind the station, where it's renting a home. Also acquired is a small corner northeast of the softball diamond which will be used for a nine-stall parking lot.

Expansion to the back side of the station will eventually become a new bay and storage for gear and equipment, which is currently spread around the village. There will eventually be a multipurpose room for training, a small conference room and updated bathrooms and showers.

"We're going to go as far as we can with the funds we've raised already," Anderson said.

Inside the fire station is a board that lists the donors who have contributed $500 or more - with bronze, silver, gold and platinum levels. Anderson said the board is permanent and will serve as a reminder of those individuals and businesses that gave for the project.

Anderson said the department was tasked with the question of whether or not to build brand new or to renovate and add an addition. The amount of $500,000 was the baseline to renovate, while a brand-new building would have cost about $1.5 million.

"We did our own internal look at 30 years from now versus now and what we would need," Anderson said. "We decided this would get us by for about 30 years. We also looked at the best location for the station and determined that its current location is the best. Things change, but I didn't perceive 15 years from now that our location would change."

The department, which at full roster has 36 people, has more events lined up to raise funds. Firefest is scheduled for Aug. 4, the day before Swiss Volksfest in New Glarus, and caters to children and families, offering food, music and various other action.