New firehouse proposed for Lehigh

LEHIGH A custom motorcycle made by Orange County Choppers will be sold via a raffle this year to raise money for the construction of a new fire station in Lehigh.

The bike is now being designed by the staff of the Newburgh, N.Y., motorcycle shop made famous by the television program”American Choppers.”

Lehigh Fire Chief Kirk Kelley said it is expected to arrive in Webster County in late April. He said a nationwide sale of raffle tickets will take place during the spring and summer, with the winner to be picked in September.

Kelley said he hopes the motorcycle sale combined with donations from businesses and individuals will generate $500,000 to pay for the proposed new fire station.

He added that any money left over after the station is built will be shared with nearby volunteer fire departments.

”We want to try to make everybody’s life a little better and a little easier out of this whole deal,” he said.

Kelley got the idea of using a custom motorcycle as a fundraising vehicle for the Fire Department about two and a half years ago, and began sending e-mails to Orange County Choppers and other high profile makers of such bikes. He joked that representatives of Orange County Choppers must have gotten sick of getting his e-mails so they finally replied to him.

Kelley said the finished product will be a two-seater and will likely have lots of chrome.

The raffle tickets will cost $20. They will be sold locally and nationally via the Lehigh Firefighters Association web site. Kelley said he has collected contact information for 26,910 American fire departments so that they can be notified of the raffle. Firefighters will also travel to fairs and motorcycle events to sell tickets.

The Lehigh Fire Department is also accepting donations for the station project. Pelhams Blue Ribbon Water, of Fort Dodge, water made a $5,000 contribution Wednesday.

The Fire Department is housed in a building that’s also home to the city offices, the library and the public works department. It was built in 1982. Since then, fire equipment has gotten bigger.

”Right now you can barely get our trucks in,” Kelley said.

The new station will have five garage bays, a training room and a kitchen. Kelley said he hopes to get it built within five years.