Meeting about new fire hall attracts crowd of about 40

Oct. 6, 2008

Some ask for plans that use steel instead of brick and mortar to lower cost; others worry about economy in jeopardy

By Lynda Jensen

COKATO, MN – A meeting to discuss proposed fire hall plans for Cokato attracted a crowd of about 40 people Monday night at the Cokato City Hall.

Members of the fire department and ambulance were present, along with council members and city officials. A presentation was made on how serious the situation was with lack of space in the existing fire hall.

The proposed plans call for an estimated $2 million project, which would be financed at 4.5 percent interest over 20 years.

The discussion was lively, but even-tempered, with thoughtful questions being asked.

Resident Gary Chamberlain said he was in favor of the project, but thought the estimated $2 million cost was “outrageous.”

Chamberlain asked the council if it would consider a steel structure vs. brick and mortar. This question was repeated later in the discussion, with residents saying that a shed structure would be cheaper to build and just as suitable.

Another resident, Sue Keskey, asked if the council will bring the question to the voters in the form of a ballot. “Will the taxpayers have the chance to say yes or no?” she asked.

Committee Member Dean Perry answered that this was strictly a council decision. It was too late for the city to add the verbiage to the fall ballot, he said. However, it has been noted in the past that the council could offer a special ballot with a question anytime, if it so chose.

One resident expressed concern about the economy, saying that he was a union painter who was laid off. Food and gas prices are high, and inflation is expected to skyrocket, he said. “I don’t know where the money is going to come from. You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.”

He suggested the city wait with its plans.

Resident Harlan Anderson noted that the climate was favorable for bids, saying there was a 20-year drop in the price of concrete and that land prices are going down.

The question was raised about whether the township was going to contribute toward the project, and what the population break down was. The number of people served is 6,000, with 2,700 city residents and the balance being township residents, Fire Chief Mike Holmquist reported.

The township has been approached, it was noted.

Cokato Township officer Dan Bravinder noted that township residents wouldn’t be able to vote on this project, but would have their finances affected through the annual fire contract with the fire department.

The township’s budget is about $230,000 per year, Bravinder said. With such a small budget, how the township could handle a project worth as much as $2 million?, he asked. The township budget for 2009 is already put into place, he added.

“We have to budget ahead,” Bravinder said. “It’s just not there.”

What sites are being considered now?

The committee unveiled three different locations for a proposed new public safety building. They are the following:

• Century Ave. and First St., known as the Keskey property.

• East Third St. and Highway 12 (the old creamery location)

• Broadway Ave. and Seventh St. (John Deere site)

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