‘Let’s hear it for Bill!’ New fire hall dedicated in honor of late mayor

'Let's hear it for Bill!' New fire hall dedicated in honor of late mayor City Manager Jeff Pederson (left) and Vermillion Fire Chief Doug Brunick (right) watch as Dan Radigan and Mayor Roger Kozak cut the ribbon to dedicate the new William J. Radigan Fire and EMS Station. by David Lias Wednesday night, Nov. 7, was a time of celebration as the Vermillion Fire and EMS departments showed off their new home to the public.

There were a few tears mixed in with the laughter of the joyous occasion as people remembered a very important individual who wasn't among the hundreds of people touring the building.

Bill Radigan, who served as a fire department member for 55 years, and as mayor helped turn the dream of the new facility into a reality, died last March before the building was completed.

Wednesday, the new brick and mortar structure was officially dedicated as the William J. Radigan Fire and EMS Station in his honor.

"The process leading up to the decision (to construct the building) required many things ? many things that really reflect the personal qualities of the person for whom this facility is named," City Manager Jeff Pederson said, speaking before a crowd of hundreds of women, men and children that gathered in the vacant vehicle bay of the building. "Let it not be believed that this building is here because Bill Radigan mandated it ?"

Pederson paused, overcome briefly with emotion as he remembered the dynamic city leader.

"In fact, and I can speak factually about this because I was there," Pederson said. "Bill was half a step back at many points along the way because he wanted this building built because the EMTs, the firefighters and the people of Vermillion needed it, but not because anyone believed that Bill Radigan wanted it or deserved it."

"The true testimony of what Bill Radigan meant to this community is reflected in the fact that we have a total cross section of the community with us here this evening," Mayor Roger Kozak said.

Radigan, Kozak said, was a family man and an ambassador for Vermillion who was always looking for ways to make the city a better place for everyone. He was involved in such civic improvements as The Bluffs Golf Course, swimming pool upgrades and the new Clay County Veterans Memorial.

"Today, to acknowledge that special person, that one of a kind, thoughtful, generous, forward-looking leader of our community, I ask you all to please join me not in a moment of silence," Kozak said, "but in a very robust round of applause for the fact that we are remembering once more the man whom we honor today. Let's hear it for Bill!"

A deafening din echoed off the high walls and ceilings of the new building as hundreds of people clapped and whistled. Nestled near one of the large doors of the facility stood members of the Radigan family, their tear-streaked faces beaming.

People who toured the fire hall received a firsthand look at its design, which includes a large bay for the fire trucks, two offices, a small conference room, a lounge room, a training room, two sleeping rooms, a communications center, and a fitness room.

"I'm just a little overwhelmed right now, looking out and seeing all of the people who are here," Fire Chief Doug Brunick said.

The 13,000 square foot building, he said, was designed with input from local firefighters and EMTs to enhance their capabilities.

"They wanted this building for today and also for the future," Brunick said. The department needed more space, especially in the vehicle area where safety was a concern for the firefighters and the EMTs. The old space, he said, was "bumper to bumper vehicles."

The new building allows firefighters and EMTs to more quickly respond to an emergency.

"Now we can take what trucks we need," Brunick said. "If there is a grass fire, we take our grass unit and our four-by-four tanker out the door. We don't have to move two trucks first to do that. If there is a structure fire in our community, we don't have to move our Suburban to get our engine out. We can now just take one truck at a time because we are no longer three deep."

The new station also offers new opportunities for firefighters to review new tactics in its training room, and to wind down after a fire in the clubroom.

The building, Brunick said, should help the fire and emergency departments attract new personnel.

"If there are potential firefighters out there or EMTs out there, I think we are going to have a better chance recruiting them to join our organization," he said, "because we have a top-notch organization."

"Also we can utilize this building as a storm shelter," Brunick said. "This station is going to better serve the citizens of the community and the surrounding area, and it's going to build a better future for Vermillion."

Pederson noted that the 50 individuals involved with Vermillion's volunteer fire department and its emergency personnel finally have an appropriate facility.

"This building is also a statement," Pederson said. "It is a statement about the confidence that Vermillion has in its future. The approximate $1.5 million spent to design and build this building constitutes an investment in the future of this community � an investment that could not have been made if the community were not positive about what lies ahead during the 50-year life span of this building."

Pederson said the new building symbolizes a new level of comfort and assurance for the readiness of the fire department's ability to respond to the needs of the public.

"I believe that this building is a tangible, and therefore a very focal component, of the work environment of these volunteers that will bring increased attention to the functions that they perform, and therefore increased gratitude and respect as well."

Vermillion's second penny sales tax funds and a $125,000 Community Development Block Grant funded the new facility's construction.

"The process leading up to the final decision to build this facility was deliberate, informed and correct," Pederson said.

Dan Radigan said he and his brothers and sisters have many fond memories of the Vermillion Fire Department over the years because their father chose to get the whole family involved when possible.

"I remember the firemen's picnics, the Firemen's Ball, but mostly I remember the family tradition of putting out the mailing for the Firemen's Ball," Radigan said. "My father knew everybody in the telephone directory in the city of Vermillion. He knew every house. He knew every address."

Radigan said his father dreamed that Vermillion would change in a positive, progressive way with the times.

"One of his dreams late in his life was to walk across the (Newcastle/Vermillion) bridge," he said. "This fire complex was one of his dreams."

Radigan said the Vermillion Fire Department wasn't the true benefactor of his father's 55 years of service.

"As I visited with one of my brothers yesterday, we both believed that Dad got more out of this department than he put into it," he said. "The lifelong friendships, the several hundred firefighters he'd gotten to know over the years, the fathers and sons and families that fought with him, and the very talented people he surrounded himself with for so many years."

In his quiet way, Radigan said, his father would measure the local fire department with those in other South Dakota communities, and find that Vermillion's was one of the best.

"One of the things he was always proud of was when a neighboring community needed to call for assistance, because he knew then that our fire department could showcase the talents we have in this community," Radigan said.

The Vermillion Fire Department was Bill Radigan's extended family, according to his son.

"That was something he was always so very, very proud of," he said.

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