Firefighters will help pay for new fire hall

Firefighters will help pay for new fire hall by David Lias The Vermillion City Council gave its blessing Monday to a gesture made by the Vermillion Firefighter's Association that will allow it to help pay for the completion of the interior work of the city's new fire hall/ambulance facility.

The association, in a unanimous vote, has agreed to spend $27,900 of its funds for carpeting the training room and finishing the building's meeting room and two bedrooms.

In a close vote earlier this month, the city council agreed to award bids for the construction of the facility, but to deduct those items from the building's interior because of a shortage of funds.

"The Firefighter's Association would appreciate the opportunity now to work with the council and administration to complete the facility," Rollie Isaacson, president of the association, wrote in a memo to City Manager Jeff Pederson. "The association feels that a substantial amount would be saved by utilizing the deduct alternates with this contract and we would like to contribute this amount ($27,900) for completion of the project."

He told the city council Monday night that the association has been saving money to furnish the new fire hall/ambulance facility upon its completion.

"We feel that what's the good in having the money for the furniture if you don't have rooms to put it in? So we would like to redirect this money towards the finishing of the building, and we would like your approval," Isaacson said.

He added that this expenditure from the association would come from funds it receives voluntarily from the public, such as from the firemen's dance and donations from citizens.

The city council gave its approval to a change order that places the items that were deducted from the building's interior back into the contract with Tellinghuisen Construction of Willow Lake.

"A change order is a common name for an amendment to a contract," Pederson said.

"Is there any creative ways we could come up with this money without the firefighters having to spend theirs?" Alderman Leo Powell asked.

Pederson noted that because $27,900 is a relatively small amount of money, there could be enough remaining in general fund reserves to replenish the association's fund. He indicated that it would depend, however, on final budget figures and how comfortable the council would feel dipping into the reserve.

"I don't know that there would be so much of a big concern of depleting the reserves by that amount of money as compared to the larger amounts that we were looking at earlier," he said.

The larger amount Pederson was referring to is the more than $92,000 of exterior work that the council deducted from the project. Those items will be bid next year, and will be paid for by a $125,000 CDBG received by Vermillion.

The city, despite budgeting $1,122,000 for the building, ran short of funds when it came time to award the project to the low bidder, Tellinghuisen Construction, on Aug. 7.

Engineering costs increased that total to $1,155,000, which exceeds the budgeted amount for the project by approximately $33,000.

Alderman Roger Kozak urged the council Aug. 7 to approve the low bid of $1,204,000, include exterior deductions of $92,287 which will be paid for next year with $125,000 in CDBG funds and also trim carpeting and finishing the new facility's training room and sleeping room in the amount of $27,900.

"I believe that leaves (us short) approximately $3,000, for which I would recommend we use second penny sales tax funds," Kozak said at the Aug. 7 meeting.

Kozak's motion failed the first time it was introduced. But when other, more expensive attempts to fund the building project failed to garner enough votes, and at one time a motion to reject all bids was even introduced, Kozak again offered his motion and it was accepted by a 5-4 vote.

"I find the request somewhat instructive, because in the newspaper there have been allegations that the requests made by the fire department for a training room and for facilities for the convenience of our volunteer firemen was a waste," Alderman Frank Slagle said Monday. "I think that the firemen contribute uncounted hours to this community free of charge year after year year."

He noted that $28,000 isn't a great deal of money to provide a training room for fire fighters.

"Notwithstanding the fact that this was characterized as a waste, it seems to me that now that the volunteer firefighters,

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out of their own association funds, have thought that this training room facility is so important that they are willing to pony up out of their own money," Slagle said, "it seems to me that this is instructive as to the aspersions the volunteer fire department has sustained using this as an illustration of a waste when in fact exactly the opposite is true."

"This money is pretty much earmarked for equipment and that sort of thing for the fire department," Mayor William Radigan said.

He added that the fire department recognizes that it may have an accident or a truck may be burned while fighting a fire.

"So they keep some money in two different accounts that enables them to feel safe if they have an accident or if a truck catches fire," Radigan said.

By using its own funds to complete the interior of the structure, it will take longer for the association to finish furnishing the building, he added.

"I understand there will be a concerted effort to encourage the citizens to participate, so it is very well possible that your depleted funds may be replenished quicker than you think," Kozak told Isaacson.

"People are very generous to the volunteer fire department here in Vermillion," he replied.

"Sometimes," Slagle said. "The paper (Plain Talk) is not."

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