Elmo residents again packed the town library to heat up the controversy surrounding the construction of a new fire station/city hall/community center. Controversy was ignited during the February town council meeting when discussion turned to the cost and size of the proposed structure.
Many residents felt the proposal for the new fire station/city hall was excessive. There were many misconceptions concerning the number of truck bays that would be built into the new fire station/city hall for a town the size of Elmo. Because the preliminary plans showed six bay doors, the residents were informed that the new structure would contain six bays. Following questioning, the council informed the public that the number of doors was indeed six, but those doors would allow trucks to drive through the building for access to the three truck bays.
Other points for discussion were the cost of the building construction and the materials used for that construction; the number of bays actually needed by the town; the cost of equipment to outfit the building; the cost of the solar panels that are proposed for heating the building; the need for a community center attached to the fire station/city hall; and the amount of the additional assessment that the residents of Elmo would be required to pay for many years.
Those same feelings and comments were re-aired during the public hearing held on March 8. The Elmo Town Library was packed, with twice as many residents attending as there were chairs on which to sit. Gil Rand, of the Architectural Coalition in Provo, gave a presentation. He is the architect for the project.
Rand began by informing the residents that he had been contacted five years ago by Elmo Mayor Daryl Wilcox concerning the proposal for a new building complex. He told the group of the many projects in the area that he has worked on and welcomed them to check out those projects.
The preliminary design work for the project was to draw plans for a fire station with three bays, office space, a cooking area, storage, and locker room. This design must contain a vault as the city offices were proposed to be housed in the facility. He was also given a figure for the proposed budget.
Rand designed the building and subsequently was asked to make changes due to the grant money available. All discussion, meetings, and changes were made during open public meetings and nothing was done behind closed doors. He stressed the point that during the past five years, since the inception of this project, the public has always been a consideration, but there has been little input from the citizens. He also stated that the work he has presented was what he was asked to do, and he did not add anything that he was not asked to by the town council.
"I am licensed by the State of Utah to design buildings. The buildings I design must meet the codes adopted by the state, and therefore I am required to be aware of any code changes. I can tell you that since these plans were drawn, the state has adopted the 2003 International Building Codes, and there may be more changes required on your plans," said Rand.
Following his presentation, Elmo residents began questioning Rand concerning the construction and materials planned for the project. One resident felt that solar power was too experimental for the town to consider for the proposed building. Another resident suggested that a steel building would be less expensive to construct as opposed to the concrete block and frame construction of the plans now being considered.
Other comments were that the city hall portion of the building was not needed; the bathrooms should be down-sized; and one resident felt that the recreation room portion of the proposed project needs to have the ceiling raised to accommodate the youth in Elmo for basketball.
Councilman Dennis Jones gave a breakdown of the project costs. For the construction portion of the project, after grant monies were applied, the residents of Elmo would see a $6.15 month increase in their utility bill from the town. As far as operation and maintenance, the increase would be $3.12, for a total increase of $9.27 per water connection, to fund the project in its original form.
Councilman Kirt Rasmussen stated, "Just because Elmo is a small town, we don't have to settle for something that is scaled back. We need to realize that a city building represents who we are, and our town should look nice. This building would do that for our town. The council has been proactive with this project in planning for the future needs of Elmo.
"There has been a lot of talk about the money being proposed for this. The residents of Elmo need to get involved in city and county meetings and projects on a more regular basis. Most people don't care enough to get involved until something threatens their pocketbook. This project has been in the works for five years, and people are just beginning to get involved. You should also be concerned with the other entities in this county. How are they spending your money?" said Rasmussen, "I'm for this project for the future of Elmo."
Councilman Bill Reed stated that he felt a franchise tax would be a better way to fund this project. A franchise tax of 6 percent could be charged to each utility that does business in Elmo. Other council members felt that the cost would still be passed on to residents of Elmo, only now with a middleman taking a cut also.
Council person Betty Labrum was adamant in her statement that this project was extravagant for Elmo. "This project needs down-sizing," stated Labrum.
Mayor Wilcox added, "We are planning for 30 years down the road. I don't like debt for the town, but the others sources of funding that we explored did not pan out. We will try to get the best deal that we can from the CIB. This project, and the expected funding sources, is a good deal for Elmo. I suggest we do this project, as it stands, with all the help we can get from the CIB, while they are willing to help."
Additional comments from residents: seniors on fixed incomes cannot afford this; is this legal: can't take on the debt; not enough sidewalks; inadequate fire equipment presently; reliance on Cleveland for firefighting help; if we don't do something, we will look like Desert Lake; need a fire station, but not a town hall; don't put our children and grandchildren in debt; and problems with the location. The comments that came from the residents that were against the project were countered with just as many comments from residents that were in favor of the project. Half of the residents present were in favor of continuing the process to acquire the building. Their reasons were: Elmo needs to be more independent from Cleveland; storage of city records is needed; the county will purchase a fire truck if we have a facility to house it; and Elmo needs to look to the future and entice people to come to the town.
Several hours into the public hearing, Labrum moved to void the entire project. With no second, her motion died. Reed then moved to submit a down-sized plan to the CIB for funding. His motion received no second and died also. Mayor Wilcox moved to submit the existing plans to the CIB, see what percentage of funding can be obtained, hold another public hearing to discuss the down-sizing, and go from there. That motion was seconded and approved.