Rural Fire’s rhetoric over Safety Center cost-sharing heats up, raises issue of aging fire vehicles

Northfield-safety-center Jerry Anderson
Today’s Nfld News article, Getting their due, features the conflict between the City of Northfield and the Northfield Rural Fire Protection District over the proposed new Safety Center:

For months, city leaders, particularly Mayor Mary Rossing, have said discussions with Rural Fire leaders over cost sharing for a new Safety Center were stalled. Rossing even went so far as to imply Rural Fire officials weren’t willing to negotiate a deal. That’s just not true, say Jerry Anderson, Ray Ozmun and Paul Liebenstein, all members of the Northfield Rural Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

… It isn’t about the vehicles, says Anderson, Ozmun and Liebenstein. It’s about the Rural Fire District being recognized for its contributions when its time to talk about paying for a new Safety Center. And, said Anderson, if it’s going to be called a partner it expects to be treated like a partner.

I found it odd that, according to the article, Public Safety Chief Mark Taylor says ‘city leaders’ find that Rural Fire’s proposed $308,000 contribution to be low.  Which city leaders, and why weren’t they interviewed for this article?

Back in July of 2009, Bridgewater Township Supervisor, Kathleen Doran-Norton commented here on LoGro:

One of the comments I heard at last night’s inter-governmental meeting was that the $10 million+ safety center needed to be a beautiful building that would make the people of Northfield proud. The township supervisors at this meeting asked if Northfield’s architectural design standards were driving up the cost of this building. There’s no interest in a Taj ma(fire)hal. What’s expected and would be supported is a serviceable utility building that fits the trucks that we use to keep folks safe, and located where everyone served can be reached without delay.

and then later in the thread here:

The city has indicated several times over the last year that it plans to talk with the Rural Fire Association and all other entities about financial support for the fire hall. The paper has reported a proposal to raise permit and other fees to pay for it. Drive by the new fire hall in New Prague. For less than $3 million, they got more than a gray box.

So it seems that Rural Fire would rather have Northfield spend more on equipment than it has in the past and less on a new building.  I can’t disagree.  And although the Council has made its decision on a new $10 million Safety Center, it’s far from certain that the voters will agree, especially when A) they find out that ‘all three city-purchased [fire] vehicles are more than 23 years old;" and B) that the current Safety Center’s flooding problem could  be fixed for $325,000.


  1. norman butler said:

    Where did you get the $325,000 cost to fix the flooding problem?

    November 27, 2010
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Norman, I got it from this comment by Ray Cox:

    I’ve not seen it, but I understand the engineer’s report contracted for by the city, regarding the present safety center, has been released. A reporter from the News called me yesterday and informed me that the report indicates that for about $325,000 the present facility can be flood protected. I understand it also includes other less costly options so that the present safety center building can continue to be used.

    The Aug 2009 Nfld News story is here: Flood protection for Safety Center gets a price tag

    Holding floodwaters back from the Safety Center could cost as much as $379,000, according to a draft of an engineering report to be released next week…

    A levee and floodwall around the building’s perimeter could cost as much as $322,000, including a system to pump water out. For $320,000 to $379,000, the city could raise the parking lot and seal exterior access to the lowest level, which could only be used for temporary activities or those with a low potential of flood damage.

    Another proposal, expected to cost around $295,000, would retrofit that floor with flood-resistant materials and let flood waters “inundate” the temporary-use space, according to the report. Such an approach would preserve the river view, but require “substantial cleanup” after floods.

    Under the least expensive option, estimated at between $132,0000 and $192,000, the city would abandon use of the building’s lower level.

    November 27, 2010
  3. kiffi summa said:

    The Tax bills came today.
    The bill for our building downtown increased 30 % ! Yep, that’s correct.

    So while the Mayor wants a building that is in NF’s image, and Councilor Pokorney thinks the RFD isn’t paying their fair share, and Councilors Denison and Pownell say the Safety Center “MUST be built now; it is NOT an option” and then one reads this article in the NFNews… where the RFD has finally (Thank God for small favors) spoken out… one cannot help but wonder where it will all shake out.

    What is NF’s image? Building a safety center that it can’t afford? That doesn’t sound like anything but a town stuck on its ‘specialness’.
    There are about 65 buildings in the DT and about 175 businesses. Building owners must get revenues from their rentals to pay their taxes That means it is clear that this tax increase on the commercial properties affects all the businesses in the DT, as well as the building owners. Many , MANY, in both categories are having trouble now, before the increased taxes that will result from the safety center bonds.

    Does Councilor Pokorney still think the RFD doesn’t pay their fair share? How would the numbers put forth here … especially related to equipment …be answered? Why has there NOT been a PUBLIC meeting with the Council and the RFD?
    This is way too important an issue to be behind closed doors with all the he-said/she-said rhetoric that has been bandied about.

    Councilors Denison and Pownell say: “… it is not an option”.
    I would agree that the firemen MUST have a better facility but a pole barn is the MOST that can be afforded. The police should have to stay where they are and the building repaired. The city will have to bear the burden of their delayed maintenance, and if it is so impossible to have one Dept Head in two buildings, separate those jobs out again until the situation can be rectified.

    I frankly have a major problem with a councilor who has virtually no fiscal responsibilities voting for a big increase in everyone else’s taxes. Councilor Denison has no “dog in the game” (I said “game” rather than ‘fight’ on purpose) I respectfully disagree with just about every economic decision on which he voices an opinion or votes on, because IMO it’s all personality politics influencing his decision making. Councilor Denison consistently votes against spending money in the Downtown, even the DT’s own dedicated TIF $$, and yet the guiding policy of this town, i.e. the Comp Plan, and the Economic Development Comp Plan, both emphasize the need for a healthy DT, claiming it is the core of the community.

    (let’s just take a sidebar to the matter of the TIF funds; the TIF line on my tax bill for the downtown building went up this year from $9,671.94 to $12, 567.06. That’s 3/5ths of my total bill of $20, 538.00.
    The TIF line on my residence bill is $00.00.
    But Councilor Denison has persistently argued that the TIF district should be decertified because those dollars should be returned to all the NF taxpayers.
    Sorry, Councilor Denison, I’m paying it on my commercial tax bill, not a penny on my residential bill. I want that money to stay downtown, for the downtown’s improvement, to help keep the whole community healthy.)

    I don’t know what Councilor Pownell’s thought process is; she is on the EDA as well as the Council… but it is difficult to see what business or economic development background would support her positions held on economics in general.
    I think these councilors who keep saying it “must be done.. it’s not an option” need to make a case for the economic (alert! buzzword) “sustainability” of their POV.
    I fear that with Councilor Denison having suggested that the Safety Center be financed with lease revenue bonds from the EDA; and Councilor Pownell having votes both on the Council and the EDA, especially the EDA’s influential and obscure Executive Committee, that will become a considered financing path, rather than a citizen referendum.

    On the other hand: Councilor Buckheit has consistently and repeatedly asked for the Council to look at the “Big Picture” of all the cost increases coming down on taxpayers, residential and commercial alike. It is embarrassing to hear her ask for that council discussion and analysis of the ‘big picture’ time and time again, meeting after meeting, and never have that discussion happen. She sounds like the only councilor who has the depth and breadth to deal with this most serious issue.
    (In fairness, Councilor Pokorney WAS asking for the same info last summer, but he gave up; how persistent should he be when he isn’t going to be there?
    Well ,if the principle was right last summer, it’s still right now, isn’t it?

    Ok.. so all politics have elements of what I call “personality politics” embedded in them… but this is a small town, and we can all go to council meetings or watch them live-streamed or re-broadcast.
    Since the RFD has finally gotten their side of the story out there, and the new tax bills have come, proving what was feared, and the Council is about to change over… it’s time now for the citizens to do their part.

    Inform yourself, speak to your councilors, become a ‘usual’ suspect at the open mic AFTER you inform yourself, *** continue to tell the police and firemen who serve you so well how much you appreciate their efforts*** … evaluate the role of the RFD and thank them for their three year old, first-out truck, and make this be a reasonable decision that you, the citizens, have a right to vote on.

    November 27, 2010
  4. Randy Jennings said:

    Griff, Norman, et al,
    You need not rely on others’ summaries of what flood mitigation might cost. The complete report on floodplain mitigation prepared by Art Kalmes of URS Corporation can be found on the Safety Center Task Force project page, The link to the pdf is in the last paragraph, and the report begins on page 8 of the packet.

    November 27, 2010
  5. David Ludescher said:

    The Rural Fire folks are raising some valid points. You don’t fight fires with buildings; you use equipment.

    The combined fire departments don’t want or need a new, pretty building. A $3.0 million facility would suit them just fine. The extra $7.5 million is for the police.

    November 30, 2010

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