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Fire department still looking into park property

By Staff | Aug 5, 2010

In November of 2008 the Rugby Fire Department’s building committee pitched the idea to the Rugby Park Board of using the south portion of Southside Park to construct a new fire hall.

It was met with mixed opinions, but no definitive answer on whether the site was off limits was ever given; nor was a proposed public meeting to discuss the request to use some park land for a future hall ever held.

The department now wants to tie up the loose ends.

At the Aug. 2 city council meeting, Gary Kraft, volunteer firefighter, said the building committee wants a clear-cut answer on where the public stands on using part of the park property for a new hall. And if there is strong support, than will park and city officials be receptive to setting aside that piece of property for a future hall.

A free picnic open to the public is planned for Sept. 9 at Southside Park hosted by the fire department. That evening the department will explain to those who attend where the hall would go as well as get residents’ feedback on whether a fire hall could share some of the park space.

“It’s a chance for everyone to hear our story…our reasoning (for that location),’ Kraft said.

Talk of a new hall has been ongoing for years. The nearly six-decade-old current hall downtown has many drawbacks. It’s location makes it difficult for firefighters responding to a fire call to reach due to traffic. There is limited off-street parking for volunteers to access. Fire trucks leaving the hall also have the contend with traffic and often pass through a school zone. Inside the hall space is tight and vehicles are wedged in there. There is also no adjacent training area for the department to use and often a block of 3rd St. S.E. is closed off to conduct training.

The idea of building a fire hall on the south portion of the park property has its advantages.

The department is seeking a site on public property to save money. The park location is owned by the park district. This location would offer quick access to a major thoroughfare and one not in a far less congested traffic area and one away from schools. There is also area near the hall to be used for training that would not tie up the street. And while the hall would force the current basketball court to be taken out, the remainder of the park, including playground and picnic shelter would be intact.

Unfortunately, it also has its drawbacks.

Building the hall there may deter deter people from using the park because of the activity at the hall during fire calls and training. The proposal would mean the current basketball court would have to be removed. Fire officials, however, would place a new court at another park location in town.

The department would have to work out any right-of-way issues with the N.D. Department of Transportation and clear up questions of property lines with nearby businesses and residents.

Some nearby residents are unhappy about of the added noise and commotion with fire trucks leaving the hall.

Dave Bednarz, ward two city councilman, who has met with the department about the planned hall, agrees a community forum would help to get a clearer picture on whether that site is still a viable option.

It’s likely the fire department will request residents attending the picnic sign a petition or give a yes or no vote on the park site.

Kraft said if there is clear consensus that the community doesn’t want to see part of the park property used for the fire hall, than the department will look at other options.

Gerry Jacobson, ward two councilman, has not received any comments from residents about a site for a hall and this would be good opportunity to get their opinions, as well as public funding options to construct the hall.

Ultimately, the council will decide whether the hall project will be constructed. The eight members agree a new hall is needed and its adopted a resolution supporting the project, but no formal action has been given in terms of establishing funding to pay for its construction and future maintenance.

The fire department has already raised a significant amount for the hall through fundraisers, but Kraft said the project really can’t get off dead center until a location is chosen. Other sites have been looked into, but have significant drawbacks, leading the department to again look at the park property.

Once that is resolved, than architects can begin designing a building and determining costs.

However, if the park site does not get favorable backing, the search for another site continues.

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