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Focus moves back to original fire hall site north of library PDF Print E-mail

■ Council, mayor deal with several nuisance issues. PAGE A2.

Coop property off table; city, rural fire board to meet again Monday

By Jan Schultz

The Imperial Republican

Members of the city council and rural fire board set a special joint meeting for Monday night, as they continue to hash out details on shared costs for operation of the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department.
A Sept. 1 deadline is also looming to get the necessary paperwork in for a November bond issue vote, when city taxpayers will be asked to approve bonds to pay for building costs.
Discussion of a new fire hall the past two years started the city’s discussion of more financial support from the rural fire district toward the building cost as well as other aspects of IVFD’s operation.
An offer of 40 percent toward cost of the new structure, not to exceed $500,000, has been offered by the rural board. Currently, the city has 100 percent responsibility for housing all fire equipment.
On Monday’s joint meeting agenda there will be a revised interlocal agreement and fire hall design and costs.
They also hope to have the construction manager, BD Construction of Kearney, available by teleconference.
The meeting is set for 7 p.m. in the city council chambers.
At the council’s July 21 meeting, rural fire board member Mike Bauerle indicated the rural board would probably not financially support the fire hall construction if built north of the library due to safety concerns they had.
An offer of Frenchman Valley Coop property at 3rd and Broadway, four blocks south of the proposed site, was suggested by the rural board.
But the lot the coop had offered to donate is not large enough to accommodate the new fire hall. Fire Chief Nick Schultz learned this Monday that additional land would not be available there, which takes the coop property out of consideration now.
With that revelation, rural board members at Monday’s council meeting, Pete Dillan and Steve Wallin, said their board would financially support at 40 percent (max $500,000) the costs to build the new fire hall if built north of the library.
Based on a 2005 interlocal agreement, the city has responsibility to house the fire equipment separately owned by the city and rural districts.
The agreement states the city will provide fire barn space for rural equipment including “one pumper, two tankers, one quick attack unit and one jointly-owned command vehicle.” Since then, three additional pieces of rural equipment have been added—another tanker purchased through the Forest Service, a second quick attack unit and dive rescue equipment.
In addition to the fact both city and rural trucks are being built longer and wider, the additional equipment has stressed building space at the current fire hall.
Since talk of a new hall started, several sites have been considered, but a council vote June 16 approved the land north of the library.
Much of the meeting time in recent months has also centered on a suburban fire district, in which the two fire districts would become one.
All that has delayed movement toward a bond issue vote which will ask city voters to support funding the fire hall. Originally it was hoped the vote could be included in the May 2014 Primary.
Meeting a November General Election deadline for the bond issue vote is now getting tight, with the Sept. 1 deadline to get ballot question details to the county clerk’s office.
How much the rural district is willing to put toward the building will be a factor in how many dollars the bond issue will be seeking from city property owners.
Rural board offers
Some on the city council don’t think a 40/60 split is adequate contribution from the rural district for the new building.
Council member John Arterburn reiterated his objections this week.
“I’m not ready to jump all over their offer,” Arterburn said of the rural board’s suggested 40/60 split.
“Putting a cap of half a million on it puts an extra load on us (city),” he said.
In other suggestions from the rural board on changes to the agreement, they suggest a 60 city/40 rural split on fuel, consumables, training, chief’s salary, work comp/liability insurance and non-vehicle equipment.
In some of those areas they now pay half, Arterburn noted. In addition, each district pays for all the fuel for its own vehicles. A 40/60 split there would cost less for the rural board, according to the discussion.
The rural district also now pays half of the firefighters’ workman’s comp and liability insurance and training costs, which would drop to 40 percent in their proposal.
However, the rural district would pay 40 percent of the chief’s salary and the non-vehicle equipment, none of which they pay for now, in addition to their offer of providing $500,000 toward the new building cost.
Arterburn still felt the city was being asked to carry more of the burden.
“There’s just a whole lot of things here I’m just not ready to jump all over and agree to,” he said.
Arterburn said he’d prefer a 50/50 split and no maximum dollar figure on the building.
He felt the cost burden for the new building was being placed more on the city residents, although it’s been the addition of more rural trucks and equipment that has overpopulated the building, he said.
Rural Board President Dillan said they have taxpayers to answer to, as well.
Fire Chief Schultz reminded the council, too, that by housing the rural equipment as part of the 2005 agreement, the city also benefits by using the rural trucks in town when needed.
Among the concerns the rural board had with the library location include the church activity across the street and a lot of children in the area.
Dillan and Wallin indicated they also had concerns with doors on the west of the building as another safety concern, noting the busy city gym activity in that area.
Removing those doors didn’t seem to be a problem for the building committee.
Schultz said it would be nice to have the west doors to pull trucks through after returning from calls, avoiding blocking main street traffic as they now must do to back in.
But, he said that’s something they can live without, too.
While the estimated building cost reached $1.8 million two weeks ago, there were questions about some of the costs Monday.
Having the construction manager available by phone for Monday’s meeting is hoped to clarify some of those costs.
The fire chief felt with some changes and tweaking of costs, a $1.5 million cost was still doable.