Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, October 13, 1997

New fire hall proposed for Winsted


A levy referendum for a new fire hall could be approved at the Oct. 21 Winsted City Council meeting.

Tuesday night, members of the Winsted Fire Department asked the council to approve a levy referendum for a new fire hall.

City Attorney Fran Eggert said he did not know if a referendum was needed for the city to construct a new building. He said he would have to do some research and would have the information at the next meeting.

Cost for a new fire hall is estimated to be $435,000. If a referendum is passed in Winsted, the city would issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $485,000. Bonds are issued in an amount over actual building costs to cover fees associated with the issue.

The process to asking for a referendum date began three years ago and has involved hundreds of volunteer hours by the fire department, according to Larry Biske, head of the department's fire hall committee.

Why new fire hall

With council approval, a study of department space needs was completed in January 1996 by architects Trossen and Wright of St. Paul. The report was written by Michael Trossen.

According to this report, the fire hall is "deficient in many areas."

The population of Winsted has grown from approximately 1,583 people in 1975 to almost 2,000 today.

From 1993 to 1995, the population grew by 12 percent per year, and this trend is expected to continue.

To meet the fire safety demand of the population growth, the city has added and replaced fire-fighting apparatus and equipment, but the station was built in 1951 and designed to fill the needs of a much smaller city.

Trossen determined the apparatus room is extremely overcrowded, and that is a major safety and building deficiency.

The mechanical, plumbing, heating, and ventilation are not up to today's building codes. This also contributes to the apparatus room deficiencies.

The fire hall does not have enough office and training space, and does not meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requirements.

"The existing building does not accommodate the minimal requirements for the safe operation of the city's fire station, apparatus and equipment," Trossen wrote.

Planning process

The first of several discussions about a new fire hall took place with the fire board in 1994.

The fire board is an advisory panel to the city, composed of two people from each of the four townships covered by the fire department and one representative from the city. Only one person from each township is allowed to vote.

The board was formed in 1979 with the townships of Winsted, Hollywood, Woodland, and Victor and takes part in the budgeting and short - and long-range planning of the fire department.

At the 1994 fire board meeting, there was a general discussion of upcoming and future truck needs, and the need for a long-range plan.

In 1995 the fire board and members of the fire department talked about what the truck needs will be in the short and long term. It was noted the fire hall is too small to accommodate the newer trucks.

At that meeting, the board recommended a feasibility study be conducted to determine if adding to the existing building or a new building would be most cost effective for long range needs.

This study was completed in January 1996. It showed a 20 percent difference in cost for a new building when compared to remodeling and expanding the existing building.

The fire board directed the fire department to have a preliminary building plan drawn by and architect so a cost estimate could be determined.

Paul Jaunich of Delano was hired to draw a proposed plan. He previously designed the Lester Prairie and St. Bonifacius fire halls.

Cost for the plan was $9,000. This was paid for completely by funds from pulltabs, and was not an additional cost to the city.

The fire board also directed the fire department to investigate building sites.

According to Larry Biske, members of the building committee have contributed hundreds of hours, assisting in designing the building and looking for the site.

Last year, the city council approved a purchase agreement and a $5,000 down payment on a parcel of property located along Co. Rd. 1 (old Highway 261) near the Niro-Sterner building. The down payment funds came from the department's pulltab revenues.

Last month, the city approved the purchase of the property for an additional $44,319. The funds for the purchase also came from pulltab revenues.

The 1997 fire board meeting recently took place, and it reviewed the estimated costs and agreed to budget for the loan costs pending approval of a city referendum.

How it will be paid for

If the city voters pass the referendum, the payment for the fire hall will be paid for with a combination of funds from the four townships covered by the department, pulltab funds, and property taxes.

Biske noted a misunderstanding could arise because, according to state law, the ballots must state the amount city property taxes would increase as if it were not to receive monies from the townships and pulltabs.

The building committee has compiled a chart giving cost estimates for the "worst case" and "planned" scenarios.

According to the department, the fire board is satisfied with services of the department. The department anticipates continued funding of the department. Pulltab sales continue to generate steady revenues, and the department anticipates no major variation in revenues.

The Journal asked Rep. Tony Kielkucki if there are any changes pending regarding pulltabs. He said nothing has been proposed at this time.

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