Plans filed for new fire station; west Lawrence Italian deli changes name amid legal wrangling

Renee, left, and Jess Maceli, of Lawrence, show off an Italian panini and Polpetto sandwich at their newly opened shop, Miceli's Italian Market and Deli, 3300 W. Sixth St.

Fire safety in the 1970s largely consisted of a crushed velvet smoking jacket to protect the polyester dress shirt — top six buttons inoperable, of course — from stray ashes. A lot has changed in the fire safety world, which is one of the major reasons Wakarusa Township officials have filed plans to replace a 1970s-era fire station with a larger, higher-tech building.

Plans have been filed with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department to build a two-story, approximately 12,000 square-foot fire station next to Broken Arrow Park, near the intersection of 31st and Louisiana streets.

“The trucks are bigger and we have more of them,” Wakarusa Fire Chief Mike Baxter said of why the station built in 1972 no longer is adequate. “We probably have about $200,000 worth of equipment that sits outside on a pretty regular basis because we don’t have the room for it.”

The new fire station will replace an existing station on the same piece of property next to Broken Arrow Park. The existing fire station will remain and be used by the township’s road and maintenance department.

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Plans call for the new fire station to have two more equipment bays than the current facility, a training room, and expanded living space for the crews that staff the station 24 hours a day. The station houses anywhere from three to eight firefighters at a time, Baxter said. The department is a mix of full-time firefighters and a crew of 32 volunteer firefighters. Volunteers are required to spend a certain number of hours in the station for training purposes.

Wakarusa Township — which is the township that essentially surrounds the city of Lawrence — will continue to operate a second station north of the city, near the Westar Energy power plant, Baxter said.

According to the paperwork filed with the Planning Department, the project is expected to cost about $1 million to construct. But Baxter said a tax increase won’t be necessary to pay for the new building. Wakarusa Township taxpayers already pay into a fire protection fund. Baxter said that fund has built up a reserve that will be used to help pay for the fire station construction.

If the project wins the necessary approvals, Baxter hopes the new fire station will be operational in early 2017.

The fire station project would be the latest in a line of upgrades for the township fire department. Baxter said new equipment and training have been paying off. The township earlier this year had its ISO fire rating improved from a 9 to a 5. The better rating should help reduce homeowners’ insurance premiums.

“People ought to check with their insurance agent to make sure they are getting the benefit from it,” Baxter said.

In other news and notes from around town:

• You may notice a new name on a relatively new Italian deli in west Lawrence. As we reported last fall, Miceli Market and Deli opened in the old Miller Mart gas station and convenience store at 3300 W. Sixth St.

But if you drive by the location now, you may notice a new name, Amici Italian Market and Deli. (I’m not sure if the signs are up yet or not. I haven’t driven by because my banker has cut me off from driving by places that sell meat by the pound.) The deli hasn’t, however, undergone a change in ownership. Instead, it has undergone a lesson in legal wrangling.

The deli is owned by Jess Maceli. He called the business Miceli because his keyboard had so much marinara sauce on it that it was difficult to ascertain the A’s from the I’s. Wait, that’s why I misspell most things. Maceli spelled the business differently because his family generations ago used to have two spellings of the name, largely because that was a sound business strategy in the bootlegging business.

But another reason for the different spelling is Maceli was looking to avoid confusion with the longtime Lawrence business Maceli’s Catering. Jess is not related to Steve Maceli, who owns the catering business.

Well, apparently confusion did result, though. Jess Maceli said he did receive a cease and desist letter from the catering company insisting that the deli quit using the Miceli name.

Jess Maceli said he is a little disappointed by having to change the name of the business, since it is, after all, his name too.

“But I don’t want people confused either, and I just thought I would be better off not fighting it,” Maceli said.

So, the name changes to Amici Italian Market and Deli, and avoiding the name fight will give Maceli more time to expand the business. Maceli owns the entire building that Amici is located in, and Maceli continues to operate the convenience store side of the business.

But the Italian deli part of the operation has taken off, he said. In addition to selling meat and cheeses by the pound, he said the business is finding a niche with panini sandwiches. The deli serves a dozen panini sandwiches made from a variety of the 17 Italian meats the business stocks and 20 cheeses. But the deli also has expanded into pasta. The menu includes a different pasta dish each weekday, such as Fettuccine Alfredo, Penne alla Vodka and good old-fashioned penne pasta with marinara sauce and meatballs. Maceli said the next venture will be for the business to buy the necessary sausage production equipment to begin making homemade Italian sausages.

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