Gender-neutral facilities included in Mich. city fire station renovation

As more women join the ranks, it's important to ensure fire station facilities reflect changes in gender makeup, the city’s facilities manager said

By Ryan Stanton

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After recently going solar, an Ann Arbor fire station is set to undergo interior renovations.

City Council has OK’d a $208,400 contract with Allied Building Service Co. of Detroit for upgrades to Station 6 next to Briarwood Mall, including adding gender-neutral facilities.

Ann Arbor Fire Station 6, 1881 Briarwood Circle, on Oct. 18, 2019.
Ann Arbor Fire Station 6, 1881 Briarwood Circle, on Oct. 18, 2019.

The station was constructed in the early 1980s when the fire service was made up of mostly male firefighters, officials said.

As more women join the ranks, it’s important to ensure fire station facilities reflect changes in gender makeup, Matt Kulhanek, the city’s facilities manager, told council in a memo.

“The proposed renovations to Fire Station #6 will provide gender-neutral restroom and shower facilities and living spaces, which can be used by all fire service employees during all shifts regardless of gender,” Kulhanek wrote.

Ann Arbor officials have stated a desire to increase diversity in both the police and fire departments.

As of last year, 91% of Ann Arbor Fire Department employees were white and 92% were male, according to city statistics.

At this point, about 5% of the department’s employees — four of 87 — are female, said Fire Chief Mike Kennedy.

No female firefighters are assigned to Station 6, though there are two in the fire operations group who may rotate through the station, and another two who work in the fire prevention bureau, Kennedy said.

The renovation work at Station 6 is expected to start in November and wrap up in March, Kennedy said.

“We’re super excited,” he said. “This is really best practice nationally, what we’re trying to embrace here in Ann Arbor. The move nationally in the fire service is not male or female facilities — it’s gender-neutral.”

The project involves transforming existing restroom and shower facilities into two unisex restrooms with individual shower facilities in each restroom and conversion of an open, dorm-style sleeping area into three individual sleeping rooms.

It also includes renovating a half-restroom to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, renovating locker room facilities and upgrading lighting to new energy-saving LED fixtures.

Council approved a $20,800 contingency to cover potential change orders. Design/engineering costs total $25,000.

The city is making plans to renovate or rebuild other city fire stations, including making them more eco-friendly and sustainable.

University of Michigan students and other community volunteers recently helped the city’s contractor, Jackson-based Harvest Solar, install 142 solar panels atop Station 6 as part of a $74,000 project.

“Our company is super proud of the partnership we had with the city of Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor Fire Station 6 on their solar installation,” said Christina Crouch, Harvest Solar marketing manager.

“The city of Ann Arbor’s involvement on this project should be a model for other communities. They were absolute rock stars in setting up the volunteers and streamlining the talks with local utilities.”

Kennedy said he’s talked with the city’s sustainability team about making Station 6 all-electric at some point, replacing gas appliances such as the stove, water heater and furnace.

“We were super happy to get the solar done,” he said. “It’s just trying to eat the elephant a bite at a time.”


©2019, Walker, Mich.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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