TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The Traverse City Commissioners on Monday approved $150K for gender neutral facilities in the city’s fire departments.

The money is coming from the $1.3 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that they received. The $150K is allocated for restroom and sleeping facility upgrades in case the fire departments need to accommodate employees of both genders.

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 When the Traverse City Firefighters L646 Union heard last week that the city was proposing to spend the money on gender neutral bathrooms, they posted on Facebook that bathrooms were a “minor issue compared to ‘a complete lack of proactive capital improvement in city fire stations.’”

They also said, “We are on borrowed time with the 50-plus-year old stations.”

In the meeting on Monday where the Traverse City commissioners approved the funding, Democratic City Mayor Richard Lewis clarified that the money was going to be spent on both the restroom AND sleeping facility upgrades to make sure the fire stations can accommodate employees of both genders.

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Commissioner Ashlea Walter said at the meeting that the $150K was a stop-gap “to get us a couple more years before we do a much larger renovation or reconstruction” at the city’s fire stations.

Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe told the Traverse City Ticker that any rebuilding or reconstructing of both fire stations will likely cost millions of dollars and probably require a millage. She said the city thinks that these gender neutral upgrades will help them recruit new staff because right now the restroom and sleeping facilities are only for one gender. Shamroe added, “Even if we used all of the ARPA money on one building, it wouldn’t cover a new fire station. It’ll be a larger problem to solve in how we will raise the money for that.”

Commissioners also agreed during the meeting to do a request-for-proposals (RFP) to hire a company to do a hazardous materials investigation report on both fire stations because of the age of the buildings.

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When Mayor Lewis was asked by Michigan News Source exactly how and where the money will be used, he said, “We (Ad Hoc Committee) are looking at Fire Station #1, but that won’t be considering/recommended until next month or January. What is being considered is utilizing space within the station. We haven’t hired a firm yet nor arrived at the total cost. An amount has been set aside ($150,000) but as was indicated last night, it may not be enough.”