It's not much of an exaggeration to say the Meridian Township's Central Fire Station looks like a war zone, so perhaps its no wonder firefighters finally surrendered Thursday.
"We've been defeated by the water coming into the building," said Fire Chief Fred Cowper. "We have had a battle here and basically, given up. We're moving out of the station today."
Firefighters showed the media the ravages of years of deteriorating conditions: leaking ceilings, exhaust pipes held together with yellow fire tape, an umbrella covering the station's communications equipment.
"We're better than this," said Meridian Township Manager Frank Walsh. "We owe this, a lot more than this to not only our firefighters but to our community."
"It's never nice to see your station become this," said Bill Priese, chief of training and EMS operations, "but we're going to really embrace the new station."
The "new station" was approved in November 2012 after a majority of voters checked yes on their ballots. More than a year later, almost no progress has been made.
That's because residents of the Autumn Park Condominiums take issue with the proposed station, which would be situated on the corner of Okemos Rd. and Central Park Dr. They say a fire station would make a lot of noise at odd hours and decrease their property values.
The township's manager says he's been trying to settle things out of court up to this point, but he may not have another option.
It's a dispute that's left the Central Station in limbo.
"We thought we could hold on until that day but unfortunately deplorable conditions here in the station are going to dictate that we move out," said Cowper.
For now, the firefighters will work from one of the other two stations in the township, which encompasses 34 square miles. Six beds will be added at the north and south stations.
Meanwhile, the township will look for a makeshift facility to house an ambulance and maybe an engine. But even if that happens, response times in the center of the township could suffer by around three minutes.
"You can't candy coat it," said Cowper. "Our response times are going to be lengthened. But we're going to do the best we can, as soon as we can so we can run out of the core of our township."
Meridian Township's board is set to consider another proposal for the new fire station Mar. 4.