Clintonville considers new fire station a priority
More space, health and safety items needed
By Bert Lehman
The Clintonville Facilities Committee recommended the city place its highest priority on relocating the fire department to a new building.
That recommendation was presented at the March 7 Facilities Committee meeting following a review of a facilities conditions report prepared by Barrientos Design & Consulting of Milwaukee.
“This is a really comprehensive survey with lots of in-depth detail and eye-catching problems for us to fix,” Clintonville Mayor Richard Beggs said.
Clintonville City Administrator Sharon Eveland told the committee the city needs to decide what steps to take to address the issues presented.
She said the city will need to pursue a referendum to exceed the city’s tax levy limit if it wants to replace the fire station or public works building.
“There’s no way we can make this happen” without exceeding the levy limit, Eveland said.
The city does not have the debt capacity to construct a new building, Eveland added.
“What we may end up having to do is basically a loan-lease option,” Eveland said. “It does tack on additional costs.”
Under this option, Eveland said private developers own the land and the newly constructed building. The city would lease it from the private developers over a period of usually 20 years.
“At the end of that 20 years, typically you have a purchase where you pay a dollar to purchase it or some nominal amount,” Eveland said. “It puts a lot of the financial risk on the private partners. That’s why it does cost more to do that, but that would keep it off of our debt capacity.”
She added: “Even if we wanted to, we can’t borrow $5 million. We don’t have the option to do this on our own. Not anytime within the next 10 years I would imagine, we wouldn’t be able to afford to do this without some sort of unique mechanism in place.”
Beggs said the city’s buildings need attention, but they are not falling down.
“I don’t see how in the world we’ll ever put up a new building unless it was the method you used,” Beggs said.
Eveland said the fire station and public works building are not sufficient for what the city needs.
She said the fire department needs more space and lacks necessary features.
“We don’t have the adequate health and safety features that are necessary for our fire department to ensure our firemen are not leaving coated in chemicals,” Eveland said.
She said the city should find a way to get a new fire station or public works building constructed.
“If we don’t want to increase our debt and we don’t want to increase taxes we have no alternative but to do nothing,” Beggs said.
Eveland acknowledged there are many competing priorities the city has, and ultimately the city council will have to decide which are most important.
She added the city has $30,000 in this year’s capital budget for building maintenance.
Committee member Steve Kettenhoven said he agrees the city needs to figure out a way to construct a new fire department or public works building.
“We also have to look at the future, not just what’s happening right now,” Kettenhoven said. “Sooner or later, if we want this community to grow, we have to make sure our facilities grow with the community. We can’t have dilapidated buildings and expect to draw people here.”
Beggs asked how difficult it would be to find private investors to do a lease program with the city for a new building.
Eveland said it would not be that difficult. She has already started discussions regarding that.
Eveland recommended the city work toward a new building for the fire department. If the fire department got a new building, the public works department could possibly move some of its equipment to the fire department’s current building.
By a 2-1 vote, the committee recommended to the city council to establish the fire department building as a priority for a new facility. Committee member Maggie Tischauser voted no.
The city council reviewed and accepted the entire facilities report on March 12.
The Clintonville Tribune-Gazette will run a series of articles in the coming weeks summarizing the findings on each city building highlighted in the report.