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Finding location for proposed fire hall has been challenging

By Staff | May 7, 2009

The Rugby Volunteer Department has a number of grant possibilities to pursue to fund a good portion of a new fire hall, but the problem is, before applying they need to know just where that hall would be built.

Several locations have been looked into, but the best, and right now the last, option rests in the hands of the Rugby Park District.

The fire department has requested the south side of Southside Park along N.D. Highway 3 to build a hall. Actually, they requested a commitment from the park board to deed that portion of park land to the city in the future.

Six months have passed since the two entities met, and the department needs an answer so it can proceed with grant applications.

Park board members have had mixed thoughts on the issue – some for it, some against it. Since there is division, fire officials and some park board members have said bringing the issue before the public would be wise.

The meeting would enable concerns to be addressed, questions to be answered, and discussion of why the department sees the park property as the best available site.

The park property has been identified as the best available piece of public property, given its central location and access to a major roadway through town. It also provides enough room for off-street parking for firefighters, training space, and avoids the current problems of passing by a school zone en route to a fire and contending with downtown traffic, says Gary Kraft, fire chief.

The fire hall building committee has looked closely at that property and believes there is sufficient room to house both the hall and keep the park intact. Plans call for garage doors to face south, and fire trucks would then enter the frontage road before turning onto N.D. Highway 3. There would also be plenty of off-street parking for firefighters responding to fire calls, and they would be a considerable distance from the playground area, Kraft said.

What about other possible sites?

Initially, the city-owned property west of M.J. McGuire’s dealership was considered the leading location for a new hall, and some fill dirt was put on the lot a few years ago. However, soil testing by a Minot firm last spring revealed the ground was unsuitable for a building housing heavy trucks and equipment and requiring a long concrete apron, Kraft said.

If would be foolish to build there, and a vast majority of firefighters are opposed to that site because of the unstable ground.

Rugby City Council has recently weighed in on the issue, although not favoring a location, but approving funds to have an engineer look at the proposed sites, study traffic patterns and make recommendations on a possible location. That was the action the council took at its May 4 meeting.

Gerry Jacobson, Ward Two councilman, would like to see more time devoted to studying the condition of the ground at the empty lot across from M.J. McGuires. He would hate to see that location written off too soon.

Jacobson added he doesn’t want the debate over a fire hall location to bring dissention among the parties involved, adding he doesn’t want to get us into a fighting mood.

Monte Schneibel, Ward Four councilman, said he can’t make a decision on where a good location for a hall would be until more questions are answered. Jim Hoffert, Ward Three councilman, said a city planner-engineer could give direction of some possible locations.

Other locations have been considered, including the old tennis courts on the north side just west of Farmers Union Oil/Cenex north, and even the former Cow Country Supply building across the street from the tennis courts.

However, Kraft indicated the north end is not a central location. Ninety percent of the volunteer firefighters reside south of the railroad tracks, and two-thirds of the fire district is south of town.

Plus, putting the hall near that intersection of N.D. Highway 3 and First St. North could create traffic concerns, as many semi trucks slow and turn at that intersection, creating a bottleneck at times.

At one time the department eyed some existing buildings or commercial property, including the Windshield Doctor/Premiere Lube location, but it’s not in favor of an existing building. It doesn’t want to take a business away.

Terry Wentz, park board member and Ward Four councilman, has concerns about a fire hall built on Southside Park property, adding it would be awkward having a playground next to a hall. The district would likely need to find another location for the playground.

Wentz stressed he’s not against a new fire hall, but he is a proponent of city parks, and the Southside Park has been there for more than 70 years. The park district has worked hard to maintain its facilities. He believes it would be difficult for that park to continue to be used regularly if a fire hall is constructed there.

There have already been safety concerns addressed about a potential fire hall there, including comments from the Growing Place Daycare, since children frequent the park during the summer months.

Kraft is aware of some of the safety concerns, but he points out that others who have learned of the department’s request to use a portion of the park don’t see any problems.

And since there are differences in viewpoints on the park district, and differing public opinions, there should be a public meeting concerning the request. George Dendinger, park board member, said he was under the impression a public meeting would be scheduled and said it would be good to discuss all the issues.

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