Since the Sharp County Library received a grant to refurbish the current fire department headquarters into a librbary, there has been discussion about plans for a new fire department building.
After construction began on the library, the fire department was required to move into a small area at the back of the building. With a decision on a new fire house delayed, the city ultimately decided to construct a pole barn on the current premises to house the fire trucks, until other plans could be finalized.
Controvery first erupted when bids to build on land on Highway 62/412 near Sonic, were determined to be too high. Mayor Danny Traw rejected the bid after holding two public meetings to discuss the bids. Traw favored buying the Dillard auto dealership building and refurbishing it for a fire station and municipal offices.
Because no agreement on plans could be reached, the mayor then appointed a committee to study the issue and come up with a plan for the department.
Rob Driesel, chairman of the committee, explained the findings at the Oct. 14 meeting and offered a recommendation during a presentation to the council.
The committee spoke with various individuals, including Fire Chief Stacy Horton, Captain Jared Allen and Lt. Adam Bates, as well as consulting other fire departments and representatives from state government before offering a recommendation.
Driesel explained the main purpose of the committee was to ensure the city gets a firehouse.
Two options were explored and Driesel explained the committee took into consideration the original plan of building the new fire house versus purchasing the Dillard auto dealership building.
He said they decided the cost to covert the Dillard building to a firehouse was not viable because of the city's financial situation.
Driesel said they considered the needs of other municipal offices including the city hall, water and sewer, and the police department. Currently, the city is renting a building for $900 month to accommodate the police department. City Hall is very close to the new five line construction and losing much of its parking, due to the project.
Driesel said the committee also reviewed issues with the sewer and water departments, including the cost to bring them up to where they need to be.
The committee recommended the city purchase the Dillard building, not for a firehouse, but because it is very usable. Driesel explained the back area could be used for street maintenance, since there is already a shop, and will require no additional construction.
The extra bay of the building could be utilized by the police department for moving their vehicles out of the weather and servicing them. The department can also use the parts room as a police department. The front half of the building can house the city hall offices.
The seven acres included with the building, will allow ample space to construct a new fire station. Driesel explained, to keep the cost affordable, a prefabricated building could be used, with labor to be performed by local contractors, keeping some of the money within the community. The other option is to have the kit company build the entire building.
According to Driesel, this option can be built for a lot less than constructing the fire station building at the proposed property near Sonic. By trimming down some of the extras, the $625,000 cost will solve all the issues involving the city. He explained, "Using the money for several projects, moving money becomes an easier issue for the city treasurer ,who would have the ability to move money around from several departments, rather than one and sharing the cost. This helps free up the city's funds and makes sure it can be paid for."
If the council votes to accept the plan, the city will also sell the current city hall and use the profits to replenish the city's funds. The project will be on a 15-20 year bond issue.
This plan will allow the city to stay within it's budget and take care of the needs of all the city departments with the purchase of the Dillard building and prefabricated building. The cost can then be shared with all the departments, taking the burden off the fire department.
Rob Simers, a Captain with the Ash Flat Fire Department, explained to the council that all the trucks will be stored in the station, with the exception of one pumper truck, which will remain at the current facility, which will be utilized as a sub-station. The firehouse will have four drive through bays and a sprinkler system as required by law. There will be a larger office area, a training room, kitchen and sleeping quarters. He said, "We were impressed with the size we are getting for the money." Driesel went on to say, "We are going to be able to build the same building they wanted before with a little extra space for half the money."
The city will save money since the prefabricated building will be constructed on one level, rather than two, as the initial plans included. By taking out the brick front and arched windows, additional funds were saved.
The cost numbers used came from actual prefabricated building constructors, who asked the committee not to reveal their company names because they plan to bid on the project. Driesel said the companies have their own architects, and the committee requested references for council to review.
Drisel said, "We also called other fire chiefs that have used these buildings, and this is the cheapest and fastest way. In looking at this from a financial standpoint, reviewing different expenditures coming in from the city, we look at this as the only viable option you have."
The building will take between 60-90 days to complete, dependent upon weather. While the construction of the kit will only take between 15-20 days, Drisel explained the land work and concrete would take the longest. The Dillard building will be available Jan. 1 at a cost of $350,000. Council will hold a special meeting Nov. 1 at 6:30 p.m. to vote on the recommendation for the city departments and fire station.
In other business, a balance owed on the construction of the pole barn to house the fire trucks was discussed. Allen Builders Inc., the contractor who won the bid, has completed the building. Until the balance owed by the city is paid, it could not receive keys to the building, preventing the fire trucks from being moved, and allowing the library construction process to continue.
Added expense was incurred when the mayor wanted insulation added to the building, which was not included in the original bid of $20,908. There was also a new garage door installed, because the one from the old department could not be utilized. Traw said he brought the decision to pay the remaining balance of $4,690 to council. Alderman Marty Goodwin asked the mayor why it was brought to council, saying, "Can you not spend up to $5,000 without bringing it before the council?" Goodwin was citing a city ordinance that allows the mayor $5,000 in discretionary spending without having to call a meeting of council for approval.
City treasurer Charlotte Goodwin said she had consulted with the Municipal League and was advised not to pay the bill until council voted on the issue.
Council then voted unanimously to pay Allen Builder, Inc. the balance due on the building.
The city also passed two resolutions that would keep the Ad Valorem taxes the same. The amount is 2 mills for personal property and 2 mills for real estate.
Ash Flat City Council meets the third Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Ash Flat City Hall. The public is welcome to attend.