Suburban district on hold; rural board will help pay for new hall
By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
A year ago, the suggestion was made by one member of the council to consider other sites than one on Broadway for building a new hall for the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department (IVFD).
But, the planning for a new structure aimed to relieve the cramped space in the fire hall has returned to the empty lot, north of the library, after council action Monday night.
On 2-1 votes, the council approved construction of the new fire hall on Broadway between 7th and 8th Sts., and also formally authorized C G Architects of North Platte and BD Construction of Kearney to proceed with building plans.
In the pair of votes, Dave Fulton and Chad Yaw voted yes, while John Arterburn voted no. Dan Thompson was absent.
Arterburn had made the suggestion a year ago on considering other sites for the fire hall, feeling that prime lot on Broadway should be reserved for retail expansion.
In another development from Monday’s meeting, members of the rural fire board pledged financial support for the new fire hall construction.
While specific dollar amounts or percentages toward the cost are yet to be negotiated, three of the rural fire board members present indicated the board would help with the new hall funding.
Work on merging the Imperial Fire District with the rural district into a Suburban Fire District will also be put on hold, according to Monday’s discussion.
After a June 9 meeting of the rural board, chairman Pete Dillan said it was the consensus of his board not to “jump into that immediately,” referring to the Suburban Fire District.
Both Dillan and council member Fulton, who were at the June 9 rural board meeting, said the feeling was that pursuing a Suburban Fire District now was “slowing down other needed decisions,” such as the fire hall.
“It’s not a fast process and we don’t have all the answers we need on how to proceed with that,” Fulton said.
However, he added it’s important to continue to move toward the Suburban Fire District concept.
Fulton added that the rural board’s willingness to cost-share on the new fire hall “was encouraging.”
Dillan said he thought a Suburban Fire District could come together eventually.
“But, today, we just didn’t feel as a board that we could jump into it,” Dillan said.
Cost-share by August
According to the motion, the cost-share formula for the new fire hall will be determined by Aug. 15.
Besides the building plans, the IVFD also has other tasks before the November election, at which the city hopes to ask taxpayers to support a bond issue for the hall.
They must get a petition signed in support of the bond issue and submit it before Sept. 1. In addition, they want time to meet with the public about the plans and costs, so they will need the cost-share details by mid-August.
While there seemed to be a feeling earlier that the rural board wanted to wait on a fire hall until a Suburban Fire District was established, Dillan said they now realize the process will take awhile.
And, he also mentioned taxes.
“What we’re feeling is the tax burden that we’re putting on the rural (property owners) would just be way out of line,” Dillan said.
A comment from council member Arterburn followed, noting the tax burden on city residents if they were to pay for the entire building themselves.
Using 2013-14 valuations for a $1.5 million fire hall, the cost to city residents if the building was paid by them alone would be 10.5 cents per $100 valuation.
If a Suburban Fire District was in place and the building cost was shared throughout both the city and rural districts equally, the tax burden would be 1.5 cents per $100 valuation.
Currently, the rural fire district valuation is $721 million. The city’s is $123 million.
There is a 1991 agreement between the city and rural fire districts that puts responsibility with the city on housing all of the fire equipment, some of which is paid for by the rural, some by the city and some shared.
In turn, the rural district allows the city to use its equipment in the city limits if needed.
Each fire district pays for its own firefighting equipment, although two pieces are purchased and used jointly—the rescue unit and command car.
Three new pieces of rural fire equipment have been added to the fleet since the 1991 agreement went into effect, including a tanker purchased through the Forest Service, a second quick attack unit and the dive rescue equipment (the latter was purchased with donations but is licensed by the rural district).
The city fire district has replaced its pumper since 1991, trading/selling the previous pumper.
Two ambulances that were formerly housed in the fire hall have been moved out to a separate EMS building, for a net gain of one truck/unit in the fire barn.
Fire Chief Nick Schultz noted that all of the new fire equipment purchased recently is coming in longer and wider, continuing to cause tight quarters in the current fire hall even though the ambulances are gone.
The department’s dive rescue equipment is currently stored off-site.