On November 7, 2017 the voters of Wapello will be asked to support a bond referendum for the construction of a new fire station. This page provides information and links to files that document the concerns with our existing facilities, FAQ's and design drawings for our proposed station. We would appreciate your support on November 7th. Thank you.
We will be hosting an open house on Sunday October 22nd from 11AM until 5PM. We will be serving chili and soup at no cost to the public. This will be your opportunity to tour our current facilities. Our intent is to hold this event outdoors (weather permitting) to give the public a chance to see the station with the equipment parked inside. Normally during fundraisers, our equipment is parked off site so the general public never gets to see first hand how we desperately need additional space. We attempted to host a similar event several years ago but unfortunately we were called to respond to multiple fire and EMS calls simultaneously so much of our equipment was gone during the event.
LINKS TO STATION INFORMATION
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Is this needed?
A: The single most important reason for a new fire station is the size of the current one. The current station was constructed in 1968. At the time of its construction, our department fleet consisted of 2 pumpers, 1 tanker, a rescue unit and a small boat. The current station had approximately twice the square footage for vehicles than what was needed at the time it was constructed. The size of apparatus has grown dramatically in the past 50 years and there is no sign that future apparatus will become smaller. Fire department responsibilities have steadily increased over the years and numerous regulations have been enacted as well. With the added responsibilities and regulations come increasing amounts of equipment that we must carry. Items such as Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), extrication tools, HAZMAT equipment simply didn’t exist when our current station was constructed. Emergency Medical Services are a much larger portion of our daily responsibilities, thus more medical equipment is carried these days. We must have the equipment needed to function in an emergency situation within the city, in a rural area or even on the water. We currently have apparatus and equipment housed in three city buildings as well as a rental storage unit.
Q: What’s wrong with your current building?
A: The size of the current station creates a hazardous working environment for our staff. Moving vehicles around with almost no space around them is unsafe. Many times these vehicles are moving in this small space while several volunteers are simultaneously making their way to the apparatus in a swift manner. This creates a very dangerous situation and a liability for our department.
Due to the size of the station, we are limited to only one possible configuration to be able to fit all of our apparatus indoors. This leads to slower response times because multiple vehicles must be moved to access proper apparatus for certain types of calls. For example, during a water rescue we must pull a pumper truck out of the station in order to access a brush truck. The brush truck must then be taken to a city owned garage some 200 feet away to retrieve the boat.
There is a gross lack of adequate storage areas for spare parts, equipment, supplies, file archives, etc.
The single current restroom is inadequate.
There is no changing/decontamination area where our volunteers can clean themselves prior to going home to their families. It is not uncommon for our staff to be exposed to body fluids such as blood, vomit, urine or feces. During fires, our volunteers can be exposed to a number of hazardous materials or products of combustion such as hydrogen cyanide, sulfur dioxide, phosgene, benzene and other carcinogens. We are putting our volunteers and their loved ones at risk by allowing them to carry these body fluids or chemicals home on themselves or their clothing.
There is a lack of functional space for meetings/training and there is no dedicated office space.
The current station doesn’t have enough room for an adequate approach to safely maneuver apparatus into and out of the building.
There isn’t adequate room in the existing building for turnout gear lockers which creates a safety issue when firefighters are responding to a fire call or vehicle accident.
The current station doesn’t have adequate space for laundering and drying of turnout gear.
The current buildings are outdated, dilapidated and inefficient.
The existing station doesn’t meet current building codes.
Q: Have alternatives been considered?
A: Discussions on the problems with our current station have been ongoing for approximately 15 years. A committee was formed and has studied the problem. Over the years, several options have been explored including, expansion of the current station, replacing our current building #2 with a larger building, purchase and renovation of local commercial or industrial properties and of course, construction of a new station. After many years of careful consideration and planning, the committee decided that construction of a new station was the only viable option. Construction of a new fire station was identified as one of the top projects needed in the community during a comprehensive planning public meeting several years ago.
Q: Do you have a site?
A: Yes. After consideration of at least thirteen different sites, the department selected a site. After noticing that the property came up for tax sale several years ago, the department asked the city to move forward with acquisition of the property. The city was eventually able to acquire the title to the property for relatively little expense. The site is located between US 61 and Mulberry Street on the South side of Spruce Drive.
Q: Do you need a “fancy” building?
A: This station was designed to be functional, yet economical. Expensive embellishments such as brick or stucco were eliminated. The building is a rectangular steel building with one continuous roof line which reduces construction cost. Polished concrete was selected for the floor surface in the finished portion of the building in lieu of expensive floor coverings. The ceiling in the truck bay is open with poly-backed fiberglass insulation along the roof as opposed to a steel sheeted ceiling.
Q: Why are there bunk rooms in the design for a volunteer service?
A: The reason we are in need of a new fire station is because when our current station was constructed in 1968, not enough consideration was given to future needs. The city did the best they could at that time given the circumstances. With some forward thinking back then however, we wouldn’t be in the situation that we are with a building that cannot be expanded or modified to address our needs. We absolutely do not want to make the same mistakes this time around. Our committee understands that we have one opportunity to get this design right. That is a difficult task for a building that we expect to last at least 75 years. The worst mistake that we could make is to design a building that required a major expansion or renovation before it is even paid off. With a nationwide shortage of volunteer firefighters and emergency medical providers, we feel that it’s likely that sometime in the future, our area will require paid staff to supplement our volunteer staff. Rather than risk a costly renovation down the road, we felt that it was important to dedicate a space to utilize for bunk rooms in case the need arises in the future. Our intent was to leave the space unfinished and simply rough in the plumbing and other utilities to this space to avoid the need to jackhammer out concrete in the future. That being said, there are some clear advantages of finishing the space now. Besides the cost advantages of completing the work at the same time as the other building construction, finishing this space would give our members access to three showers instead of only one. Our members are exposed to health hazards during fire and EMS calls that most members of the public can’t even imagine. The additional showers would greatly speed up the decontamination time. For example, if we have six volunteers on a medical call that get exposed to any of these hazards, rather than each individual waiting for a single shower to open up, we would be able to get our volunteers safely back to their families in one-third the time. Additionally, if staffing numbers dwindle to the point that paid staffing is being considered, the bunk rooms would allow us to visit alternatives to paying staff such a recruitment of volunteers from a larger geographic area and allowing them to stay at the station when they are on call. The cost savings to the community using these alternatives instead of paying for staffing would be enormous.
Q: How much is this going to cost?
A: Voters will be asked to approve a cost not to exceed $1,700,000. The actual cost of the building construction is estimated at $1,326,251. A standard 20% contingency of $265,250 was added to the cost bringing the estimate to $1,591,501. The remaining costs included in the estimate include engineering fees, project management fees, bonding attorney fees, financial planning fees related to the sale of bonds, material testing fees and other legal costs. We will strive to keep the cost as low as possible and are looking into other financing options besides bonds which would lower the cost. We are hopeful that we can complete the project well under budget.
Q: How is the city going to pay for it?
A: Voters will be asked the following question on the November 7th election. “Shall the City of Wapello, in Louisa County, Iowa, enter into a loan agreement and issue its bonds in an amount not exceeding the amount of $1,700,000 for the purpose of paying the cost, to that extent, of designing, constructing, furnishing and equipping a municipal fire station?”
This is standard bond referendum language that was prepared by the bonding attorney representing the city. If an affirmative vote of at least 60% is received, the city will be authorized to borrow up to the amount of $1,700,000 to finance this project. The financing for the project can be obtained through the sale of bonds, loans or other legal means. The debt will be paid through a debt service property tax levy. The $1,700,000 cap is the maximum principal amount of the financing and absolutely does not prevent us from borrowing less if the project comes in under budget.
Q: For the average house in Wapello, what will my tax be?
A: As mentioned above, we are working to keep costs down and will continue to do so. However, if the entire $1.7 million was borrowed over a 19 year term (considering bond rates as of 8/21/17 plus adding 0.25% for a cushion), the tax increase would is estimated at $2.27 per $1000 of taxable value. For 2017, taxable value for residential property is set at 56.9391% of your assessed value.
Example: For a home with an assessed value of $75,000 your additional tax per year would be approximately $97.
Assessed Value $75,000 x Rollback 56.9391% = Taxable Value $42,704.33
Taxable Value $42,704.33 ÷ 1000 = 42.70433
42.70433 x Estimated Levy Rate of $2.27 = $96.94 per year
The $97 per year amount works out to be around $8 per month. We feel that this project is a sound investment for the security of the community.
Q: Why don’t residents outside the city of Wapello pay for the new station?
A: The City of Wapello entered into an agreement on April 20, 1972 with the surrounding townships which states that the city is responsible for adequately housing the fire equipment. In return, the township will purchase a Class “A” pumper truck every 15-20 years that may be utilized within the city of Wapello. The townships provide fuel and maintenance for these trucks. The cost of items such as utilities, supplies, training and other equipment is split 50/50 between the entities.
Q: Are you doing any fundraising or grants?
A: We have attempted to apply for grants related to station construction in the past and have been unsuccessful up to this point. We will continue to investigate grant opportunities related to this project, however, there are a very limited number of grant opportunities related to fire station construction. We have however, secured numerous equipment grants that have enhanced our abilities and dramatically lowered the tax burden on our citizens over the years. Some of those grant awards and the grant amount/value of the equipment received are below.
Turnout Gear 2004- $52,500 SCBA’s 2006- $78,000
Breathing Air Trailer 2006- $50,000 Command Truck 2006- $55,000
Tanker 2009- $186,500 Narrowband Radios 2009- $27,350
Ladder Truck- $65,000 Turnout Gear 2014- $79,689
Rescue Unit 2007- $225,000 Kubota UTV, Skid Unit and Trailer- $28,000
Dodge Brush Truck and Skid- $13,000 Chevy Brush Truck Skid Unit- $5000
Jaws of Life- $35,000 Thermal Imager- $14,000
Boat Motor- $5000 Portable Gas Detectors- $15,000
Ahura Defender- $30,000 Lifepack 12- $24,000
LP500 and Zoll AEDs- $5000 Airbags and Rescue Jacks- $10,000
Lifepack 15 - $34,000 Ford Brush Truck - $20,000
We have also received numerous smaller grants for radios, pagers, wildland equipment, medical equipment, training, etc.
We currently fundraise to support our technical rescue and emergency medical services for which we receive little taxpayer support. The City of Wapello covers the cost of fuel and insurance for these services, however, other operational costs such as the rescue truck, boat, rescue equipment and EMS supplies are all funded through grants, donations, and fundraisers. To take on additional fundraising efforts for a project of this magnitude would be impractical. Our members already volunteer an enormous amount of their time for training and responding to the 350-400 calls per year that we average.
To put this into perspective, on an average fish fry, our net profit is usually around $400. Approximately 10-15 members will spend the entire day preparing the cookers, food, seating, and other items to make the event successful. In addition, one or two members will spend quite a bit of time the week leading up to the fish fry ordering supplies, picking up the fish, filling propane tanks, etc. In total, it takes around 150 man-hours to raise $400. With this profit margin, we would need to hold over four-thousand average fish fry events to raise the money necessary to build this station. That is in addition to regular fundraisers that are required to sustain our rescue operations.
Q: Can we build the station in stages?
A: We have an immediate need for a new fire station. The problems that we are facing have been ongoing for several years. The project can legally be completed in phases, however, Iowa law requires that if the total project requires over $400,000 to be borrowed by the city, the project must come up for a public vote. Our intent is to bid this project in separate phases in an effort to control costs and increase bid participation among smaller contractors that may not otherwise be in a position to bid on the entire project as a whole. These smaller contractors may have less overhead and, as a result, may be more affordable than utilizing a larger general contractor. We will be accountable to the taxpayers of Wapello, and we intend to work hard to control costs. The features of this building address concerns that have been ongoing for several years and these concerns need to be remediated in the very near future. With commodity prices and interest rates back on the rise, any potential cost savings that may be realized by dragging out the completion of this project, could easily be erased in a short time.
Q: What happens if it doesn’t pass?
A: In the event that this project does not receive the number of votes necessary to pass, our volunteers will unfortunately continue to be asked to risk their personal health and safety to serve our community. It will undoubtedly be a blow to the morale of the department, however, our members are proud of the service that we provide to the area and believe that we have submitted a proposal that is the most responsible and cost-effective long term plan for sustaining the excellent fire and EMS service that the community has come to rely upon. We understand that these are tough economic times and our volunteers will be impacted by the tax increase along with the other property owners in the community, but we feel that this project is a critical need for the community and is an investment in our future.