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Firemen press council for direction on fire hall construction PDF Print E-mail

By Jan Schultz

The Imperial Republican

Saying they want to keep lines of communication open, a spokesman for the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department asked the city council for some direction on the fire hall construction.
Brad Dillan, an IVFD member who spoke for the department, said they would like consideration that a bond issue for the fire hall be on the November ballot.    
To do that, all paperwork including the council’s approval, site selection and collection of petition signatures must be done and submitted to the county clerk  by Sept. 1.
The architect needs about 30 to 45 days, depending on the site chosen (Broadway lot or Wellington field), he said.
With those deadlines in mind, Dillan said a decision on direction needs to be made by the council’s June 16 meeting to move forward this year.
“We’d like to move forward with this project. Looks like we have two good options for a site,” he said.
Stalled in recent weeks as the council considers a suburban fire district to replace the two fire districts currently operating, there hasn’t been much discussion at recent meetings.
A council committee and members of the rural fire board were scheduled for a meeting on the topic this week.
With regard to the suburban district possibility, Dillan said that will take up to two years to finalize. But the IVFD would like to more forward, he said.
Council member John Arterburn asked, “Can you make it any cheaper?”
Dillan responded that due to the delays he guesses the architect does not want to put any more time into the plans  until a decision on moving ahead is made.
Arterburn noted the building cost has grown, since discussion first started, from $750,000 to $1.5 million.
Fire Chief Nick Schultz responded, saying some of that less expensive cost took into consideration that the firemen would do some of the work, and the original building plans were smaller.
He said changes were made so the building size could be expanded.
The Wellington site football field area, owned by Chase County Schools, has been offered to the city at a cost of $130,000 with the stipulation a soccer field be established on the south end.
Mayor Dwight Coleman noted the architect’s estimate is that about 10 percent of the entire building cost would be saved if built on the East 12th site, due to the building shape.
“That would take care of purchase of the property,” he said.
However, there would also be costs in bringing sewer and power to that site, which would be more expensive than the city-owned Broadway lot where utilities are present.
The building would be land-locked at the Broadway location and cost more to build due to its required L-shape design to fit that area, according to previous discussion.
Newly-appointed council member Dave Fulton said he fully supports the suburban fire district concept, but also does not want to put the fire hall construction on hold that long.
Fulton said he understands  the process in changing to a suburban district could take up to two years.
There are legal issues involved with the change, as noted by City Attorney Josh Wendell. He said the city would continue to be responsible for the building’s bond payment if it was passed by city voters before a suburban district was established.
However, there can be affirmative action taken by the newly formed entity that takes the building and the bond payments into consideration, he noted.
Arterburn predicted the discussion on the suburban fire district will likely be a lengthy process.
It was mentioned in the discussion that at least one rural fire board member may have a different idea where the building should go.
Mayor Coleman said his fear is that if they move ahead with a new building, it could take the possibility of changing to a suburban district “off the table.”
“I don’t want that to happen,” he said.
Dillan asked, “Where do you want us to go, what do you want us to do? Is November off the table?”
Council member Fulton said he doesn’t believe so.
Fire Chief Schultz said neither the city or rural board will be entering into an agreement they are not happy with. As far as building location, he said the rural board also wants good fire protection.
“Having equipment only doesn’t do them any good, they have to have manpower to run it. Having a central location whether it’s the Broadway site or the football field is going to provide the best response time available,” he said.
Arterburn said they need to let the process work.
“I really want to see the suburban district work and I also want to see a new fire barn,” Arterburn said.    
Mayor Coleman said he realizes it may look like the council is stalling.
“But, we have to make sure we don’t do something that takes the rural deal off the table,” he said. They all realize the IVFD is crowded and needs a new barn, he added.
“I want to move forward, but we also have to try to do what’s best with the tax dollars of the city,” Coleman said.
“We just want some clarity, direction and a solid plan,” Dillan said.
Fireman Rick Elliott said they just want the chance to be able to sell it to the public.
Arterburn and council member Dan Thompson represented the council at a meeting scheduled Tuesday this week with the rural fire board.
In other business at the May 19 meeting, Supt. Pat Davison related problems along Holland St., where city-funded curb and gutter was recently poured in front of four new spec homes being built. He said the curb was higher than the street, and asked for direction.
Davison felt it was the city’s responsibility to fix it, since he said the curb/gutter was done correctly. The street was originally overlaid with millings to give it a surface but it is breaking up in areas. It appears millings have been laid in the gaps as a temporary fix. He was going to gather costs on other options for the next meeting.