The Ferron City Council held a public hearing prior to its regular city council meeting on March 6 to hear comments on a proposal to transfer money from its water enterprise fund to the general fund to purchase property and pay architect fees for a new fire station.
At issue was a city proposal to transfer $75,000 from the water enterprise fund to purchase property for the new station and pay architecture fees. The water enterprise fund was established so that the city could purchase water shares when they became available. The fund currently has $133,503 available and during the meeting it was brought up that there have been no water shares available for purchase for the past several years. Of the $75,000 the city was looking to transfer from the fund, $30,000 would be used for the purchase of property and the remaining $45,000 would pay architecture fees.
A small group of Ferron residents gathered at city hall for the hearing where Randy Nielson, Ferron City fire chief, presented a slide show detailing the dire need for a new station. The current fire station was constructed in 1980 and is in a state of disrepair. Too small to adequately accommodate the larger fire trucks and in need of everything from new plumbing and electrical, to a new roof, bathrooms and heaters, the cost of bringing the current station up to standards would be more than $210,000. Even if the city pursued updating the current station it still faced the problem that it is too small and there is not enough land available for expansion. Purchasing additional land around the current station would prove too costly for the city, according to the city council.
The new station would cost approximately $400,000 and the funds would come from community impact board grants and loans. As Nielson took the audience through the station during the slide show no one objected to the city's need for a new station. Public comments on the station itself was more concerned with the need for the city to build a new station that would last longer than the old one. Current guidelines for the construction of fire stations calls for a fire station to be built to last longer than any other building in the city.
Plans for the new station would be to build one that would adequately house all of the city's fire equipment and allow for the fire trucks to drive through the station, rather than be backed into parking spots. With a budget of $16,500, city residents expressed concern that even if the new station was built would there be money to maintain it?
"The fire department should take precedence over the event center and the golf course. Those are luxury items, this is not," one resident said.
Concern was also raised on how the city would repay any loans granted for the fire department's construction.
Debate over whether the city should transfer the $75,000 from the water enterprise fund focused on whether it would leave enough money in the fund to purchase needed water shares if they were to become available.
During the regular city council meeting one of the agenda items was whether to go ahead with the transfer of money from the water enterprise fund to the general fund for the fire department. The city council decided to table any decision on the transferring of funds until they had time to gather more information, specifically on the operation and maintenance costs involved in a new station.