Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brad Mohn and Hamilton Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf have been mulling over the status and needs of the Fire Department for a couple of years now and both feel it is time for the issue to get some serious consideration. According to Mohn, the Fire Department has at least two urgent needs and both of them are costly. One would be a new fire truck and the other would be a new fire house.
Mohn told the council members at their Committee of the Whole meeting at the end of August that the estimated cost of the needed truck was somewhere between $700,000 to $900,000. He said that there is currently $430,000 in the city’s Capital Improvement Fund and that Craig Shepherd, the City’s Finance Administrator, had tentatively added $300,000.
“Depending on what we decide, there will be some money available,” said Mohn.
As to the need for a new fire station, Mohn said “the building is 110 years old, fire trucks don’t fit in it and structurally, the building is starting to decay.” He said they were already looking at having to make some costly repairs. He estimated the cost of a new fire station at about $3 million. He said they were currently looking at a five-acre lot that is just to the north of the lot the City was earlier considering for a new fire station. Mohn said he feels it would be a better location and would give the Department room to grow. He said he wanted the council to get on board.
Mayor Farrenkopf stated that his staff had come up with six good ways of funding that could be used separately or in some combination.
Number one is a naming donor. Someone who makes a large donation and the Fire Department is named after them. Number two would be a grassroots effort utilizing different fundraising mechanisms. Number 3 is to use savings and grants. Number 4 would be an Intercap loan such as was used to build the Justice Center. Number 5 would be to take it to the voters with a general obligation bond. Number 6 is a combination of fundraising efforts. Farrenkopf stated that some of the money coming in from the CARES Act funding may also be applicable. The city has received $140,000 in re-imbursement from that funding so far.
“I think it is going to have to be a combination of a lot of these things,” said Farrenkopf.
A discussion about the larger lot ensued and Councilor Kristi Bielski commented that it may be worth purchasing the lot even if it is not used for the Fire Department.
Councilor Claire Kemp said she felt that a combination of fund raising mechanisms will need to be used and added that real estate is really expensive right now.
Chief Mohn suggested that he would like council’s support in order to be able to get something on the November 2021 ballot if they could.
Councilor Rod Pogachar said he believed that some money received from the CARES Act could be used to pay off the loan for the Justice Center and get a new loan for building a fire hall.
Some councilors expressed their support for the idea of a new fire hall. Councilor Kemp stated that she is in support. Councilor Jenny West commented that a new fire hall has been needed for a long time. Councilor Bielski said she is definitely in favor of a new fire hall, but she said she is concerned about how the community will view it. Councilor Robin Pruitt feels the community is pretty interested. By involving the community, she could see support building and is interested to see what can be done going forward.
As far as what would happen with the old fire hall, Councilor Kemp said that she and City Planner, Matthew Rohrbach, started working with the State’s Historic Preservation Office last year. She feels that the council needs to be thoughtful about what it is doing with the building. She said the building is already on the historic registry and she believes it is an incredible asset to our history.
The issue was left in committee.