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Olivet Purchases New Fire Truck and Talks Potential Station

The Olivet Fire Department was a focal point at the recent city council meeting on Feb. 12, 2024 when the council held an informational discussion about a potential property for a new fire station. This comes following the council’s special meeting on Jan. 22, 2024 where they unanimously agreed to sign a contract with Spencer Manufacturing for the purchase of a new fire truck. According to Olivet Fire Chief John Collins, the department has fallen behind, and these moves mark an attempt to help correct that. “We’ve fallen behind because of the aging equipment, aging building. You know, it’s hard to play catch-up,” said Collins when asked about the current state of the department.

According to Collins, the newly purchased engine is being built and should be ready within the next 21 months. The money for the truck comes from a grant from the state of Michigan. “We are very fortunate in our area, our state representative had allocated money years before for two other departments in our county for trucks, so I met her,” said Collins. “I said we could use a fully equipped pumper, and so we were able to get a grant from the state for a million dollars,” Collins continued.

As for a potential new fire station, there are still a lot of questions waiting to be answered. Olivet Fire Commissioner Don Walker said to the council during their February meeting that they have been working to find out more information to bring to the council for discussion. “We needed to find out information to bring it here so we could discuss it,” said Walker. As for where they are in the process, Walker told the council, “We know there is land out there, it’s usable. [We know] who has to approve the dividing of the land, and the approximate cost of the surveyor.”

A primary talking point for the council on the 12th was the purchasing of the potential property. During the meeting, Walker responded to fellow council member Gary Peterson’s concerns saying, “At one time it was a possible donation,” but that he was currently unsure. This was echoed by Mayor Laura Barlond-Maas who said, “There has been some talk I’ve heard about a donation of land.” The land that was looked at prior to the February meeting sits outside the Olivet city limits, according to Chief Collins, “a stone’s throw away.” The council is in the early stage of any possible process to move forward, so much of the session was filled with questions.

Chief Collins said multiple times in interview and when addressing the council in regards to the station, “The need is there.” Long-time Olivet resident and Olivet College alumni Mike Fales described what he called the “Legacy of fires” in Olivet that within the last century alone has involved several disastrous events. Fales mentioned the former men’s dormitory, Parsons Hall, which burned in February of 1928, as well as the original Shipherd Hall which burnt down in the 1950s. “Phi Alpha burned down twice in the 1980s. Adelphic burned down in 1987 and those are just the fires on campus. That does not even include the fires in town,” said Fales.

Fales said he sees value in the continued improvement of the local fire services. “The fire department here in Olivet is volunteer and it’s maybe our community’s most important asset,” Fales said. “You get to be an old man like me, you need to know that somebody is going to be on call to take care of you if something happens.”

By Nate Lehman, Ben Porter, and Stuart Donlan


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