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The Lake Johanna Fire Department, which serves three northern Ramsey County suburbs, is considering building a more centrally located fire station and administrative offices in Arden Hills, on Pine Tree Drive next to Bethel University.

That would allow the department to shutter its older station at Victoria Street and County Road E in south Shoreview, which sits next to a busy railroad crossing that often slows response times.

“Right now we are negotiating with Bethel University to purchase land for a fire station,” said Fire Chief Tim Boehlke. “We are looking at 3 to 4 acres. Our hope is to be able to eventually build a new fire station which would include administrative offices.”

Leaders from the three cities served by the fire department — Shoreview, Arden Hills and North Oaks — have all expressed preliminary support for a new station, Boehlke said.

The chief acknowledged the new facility would likely cost millions but said it’s too early to nail down a precise figure.

“Relocating to the center of Arden Hills and southern Shoreview will give us better overall response times,” Boehlke said. “We are building this fire station for the future — for the next 50 years. It will be in a much better location.”

The new station would serve Rice Creek Commons, the 427-acre residential and commercial development planned on the site of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills. But Boehlke stressed that the three cities are serviced by all the stations.

The Lake Johanna department now has three stations. The two other locations, at 5545 N. Lexington Av. in Shoreview and 4676 Hodgson Rd. in North Oaks, will remain open.

Boehlke said that Shoreview owns the Victoria Street station and that Shoreview city leaders will determine the future of that site.

The Lake Johanna department has 79 mostly part-time firefighters and five full-time employees, the chief said. The department, first organized in 1943, responds to about 4,000 fire and emergency medical calls a year among the three communities, which have a total population of about 42,000.