Podcast: Jane McWilliams on the proposed police and fire facilities

Jane McWilliams, Griff Wigley, Ross Currier,

Über citizen Jane McWilliams was our guest this week, discussing city finances and the proposed police and fire facilities.

 

Click play to listen. 30 minutes.

You can also download the MP3 or subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe directly with iTunes. Our radio show/podcast, Locally Grown, usually airs Mondays at 6:00 PM and Sundays at 10 AM on KYMN 1080 AM.

11 thoughts on “Podcast: Jane McWilliams on the proposed police and fire facilities”

  1. 14 million is way out of line! If you look around and see what has been built for 1.5 million in higher populated areas, I think you will find I am correct. I am all for police and fire, but that’s just too much to house machinery,desks and a dwi offender or two in a town with less than 13,000 full time residents. How bad and careless are we, anyway?

    Let’s see, 14,000,000 divided by 13,000 = 14,000 divided by 13 = $1,000 per person. ball park approx…or $2,000 per couple or $4,000 per household, approx.

    I think that includes the police and fire person’s household as well.

    Best regards to Jane. She’s super.

  2. As a point of information, the last issue of the Belle Plaine Herald reported that the City of Belle Plaine is considering a 22,000 square foot public works facility at a cost of $2 million….as presented by Oertel Architects of St. Paul. Adding in the $132,000 design fees and other related work brings the total to $2.2 million, or just about $100 per square foot.

    The Belle Plaine city council has been debating the need for a new facility for slightly over two years. Because of positions in favor of a new facility two councilors and the mayor were replaced in the last election. Now the city council is seriously looking at purchasing an existing building in the city and remodeling it.

    I bring this up because I am completly supportive of constructing a new modest fire hall….and keeping the police in the existing 40 year old facility.

  3. Today’s Strib: New police and fire buildings will go to Northfield voters

    To fund the buildings, he said, owners of a median-valued house of $204,000 would, for example, pay another $125 in taxes for 20 years beginning in 2012. Commercial property owners would pay about $1,800 on median property worth $1.6 million.

    That’s a lot, critics say. Some figure that police could just stay in the current building after some renovations. Others would rather scale back the projects to make room for a now-stalled library expansion. And some are concerned that construction plans aren’t final yet.

    "We don’t have a site, [final] architectural renderings or good, hard costs," said Northfield resident Ray Cox, a former state legislator and school board member. "I think a lot more people have a problem with this than the city realizes."

    Yet the time to build is now, Fire Chief Franek stresses, when the city can save big in a soft construction market.

    That’s true, says Downtown Development Corporation Board Member Keith Covey. But his constituents say they’re already battered by rising taxes. Speaking only for himself, he asked, "Should I make a big purchase when my bank account is strained — just because I can get a better deal — or wait till my account can afford it?"

     

  4. It is very discouraging to attend the steering committee meetings (safety center project) and hear the brunt of the success of the 14.4 mill$$ referendum being put onto the success of the …dare I say marketing?instead of public education… campaign.

    ***I want to vote to support the Fire and Police; but I really think this vote needs to be put off until there are more ‘knowns’ than UN-knowns. ***

    This morning’s discussion focussed on the need to determine a site for the Police, as the City waits to hear from MNDOT about the Woodley site for the Fire.
    But the Woodley site cost is 1 mill$$, and some sites that were bumped out of the process weeks back, (when a less costly combined facility was still being pursued) were bumped because the sites were too costly; now a million dollar site is being considered for one part.

    That makes no sense to me, and is in my mind indicative of what has been the problem with the Process all along.

    Instead of letting this very complicated process develop in a logical way, step by step, as each segment of it is decided upon for certain, for some reason… there has always been the pressure of it being a referendum this November. This morning the 1-200K differences in sites for the Police station were said to be of not much importance in the big picture ; so I ask this:
    Then what is the problem with spending the extra 10-12K it would cost to have a special election in the spring or whenever , when the MNDOT site that is preferred for fire is a Known , and if the rest of the choices depend on that one, they can then logically follow?

    It is a false economy to say we can’t spend a small amount on a special election later, if that will clarify the entire process.

    It just makes no sense to be forcing a decision based on an unknown! There’s an element of ‘stubborness’ in that that I find disquieting in public officials’ decision making. Always the response is: well then we just have a lot more public education to do.
    I don’t think you can fix all questions the public has by marketing approaches.

    When you tour the current Safety Center you are told by the employees there, on the basement level, that it has never flooded from the river. You are told that a small amount of water has once or twice gotten in the corner of the garage closest to the river. You are told that the “floods” they have had were from the failure of the sump pumps.
    But these statements about flooding just keep resurfacing and are never challenged. I understand that a significant renovation of that building MIGHT trigger more stringent flood plain concerns, but those numbers keep moving and changing, and are just not ever tied down.
    That’s just one example.

    I think everyone wants the Fire and Police personnel to have a very good working environment. Their safe working environment is crucial to the community’s safe environment… but this process has to slow down, tie some crucial things down… I would say the new fire station site is #1, and then go from there with the less costly combined facility or, if necessary , separate sites.

    Referendum for bonding later, maybe spring 2011, when the community knows exactly what it is voting on… after exactly what it is voting on has been in the public presence long enough to be absorbed… and the need for marketing, as opposed to education, has been reduced.

  5. The Council has decided to postpone the Nov. referendum on the police/fire facilities. Nfld News: Council postpones November referendum
     

    The council voted unanimously to postpone the referendum after learning that the preferred site for the city’s proposed fire station, a parcel of land on Woodley Street, may not be available until after the election season this year. The 2.2-acre site is currently owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which operates a truck station there.

    If the council chooses to hold a special referendum in this spring, it would likely cost the city an additional $12,000 to $15,000, City Clerk Deb Little said during the meeting. Several council members also expressed a renewed interest in developing a single facility on the Woodley site—an idea that was discarded earlier in the safety facilities design process.

  6. The change may result in a referendum that is less representative of citizen opinion since a special election will no doubt draw fewer voters than the regular november elections. Might it be possible that the council considered that angle?

    Still, it is at least a postponement of action on the unnecessary new police station.

    Hats off to Kiffi for giving the issue publicity.

  7. I’m very pleased to hear this news. Hopefully it will give city council members more time to visit with taxpayers in the community and understand their concerns. Again, what this city needs is a modest new firehall on a new site, and remodeling of the existing facilty for police only. We do not need a $12-14 million combined facility or any combination thereof.

    1. Ray,

      It might happen now with a number of new Council members and a new City Administrator, especially if this Division Street site is a real, and not a fanciful, option.

      It sounds as if the City Council still doesn’t have a clear picture that $12 – $14 million is extravagence is this day and age. It sounds as if they are trying to wait for a better site to open up for the police, or the fire, or a combined site, or whatever.

  8. I was pleased to read that the council has decided against a November referendum, but I was dismayed at the randomness of the discussion which followed. It would serve them well to put the whole project on ice for a few months. Like Ray, I’d like to think that once the council has a new administrator and has pinned down the 2011 budget, they would take a step back and revisit the option he proposed as a Task Force Minority Report and again in 8 above with the addition of a first phase of the library expansion.

    1. Jane: you are correct about the randomness of the discussion that followed… in some ways that is understandable as someone (MNDOT) had just thrown a big wrench into the works of the Council’s fast moving train.

      I have difficulty understanding the schedule they were on , with the ‘unknowns’ they have had; especially since at least some of the councilors were exhibiting signs of ‘motion sickness’.
      But there is a price to be paid on this council for asking staff too many questions.

      There has been some slight rumbles from the architectural firm, KKE, at the steering committee meetings, that at some point things must be tied down or there will be extra costs incurred. I am very surprised if there have NOT been extra costs up to this point.

      I think it is important that if this delay, and the resulting further exploration/revisiting of the MNDOT Woodley site for a combined facility, create an extra cost bearing load for KKE, resulting in additions to the project costs, that someone on the Council speak to that issue. I certainly would NOT expect the architects to work on a totally open ended concept and they have been extremely flexible on that point; it is NOT right to continue to expect them to do so.
      Taxpayers, and frankly the police and fire personnel, have a right to know what the dependence on that as yet unavailable site has cost in dollars, and time.

      In doing the LWV observing while ** you have been on vacation** 🙂 , it is also disturbing to note the defensive remarks made by council about staff; I think this is demeaning to their professionalism. I would have no problem with staff presenting their ‘side’ of any conflicting statement; respect for their professional expertise should allow them to do so.
      I do have a problem with any council person, even if it is the Mayor, positioning themself as it being their ‘job’ to defend the staff. It is almost patronizing, and begs the question of who the elected official represents.
      (sorry for the ‘sidebar’ )

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