Archive for Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ates begins bond inquiry

April 24, 2008

The Eudora City Council last week gave Eudora Fire Chief Randy Ates permission to begin researching for a possible April 2009 bond issue to build a new fire station.

City Administrator Cheryl Beatty said city officials were aware the building was too small, but that the department's management of emergency medical services personnel last year increased crowding.

"The council had known for about five years before I got here that the facility they have is too small," she said. "The new fire truck barely fits and with managing the EMS there, too - there just isn't any more room for us to grow into that building."

Ates said EMS had seven members at the beginning of the year, but now has 20, which is the same amount of volunteer firefighters on his staff. He would like for both departments to grow by 10 members each.

Beatty and Ates will talk this week with Eudora USD 491 officials about a donation of property after Nottingham Elementary is vacated. Ates also mentioned other possible locations such as the west end of the new elementary school land, the Community Learning Center or land at 20th and Church streets.

Much of those discussions depend upon what the district decides to do in terms of building a new operations center.

The fire department currently is housed in a 4,320-square-foot building, located at 840 Main St., which is shared with the police department. The fire department is situated in the front half of the facility, meaning the total space is about 2,000 square feet.

Ates estimated a new station would cost about

$2 million dollars. He cited two fire stations - one in Chesterton, N.Y., measuring 14,399 square feet and one in Gastonia, N.C., measuring 12,872 square feet - that were in that price range.

Ates said foresight is the key to getting the most out of any bond issue approved.

"If we build a station that 30 years from now is already too small, we've just thrown away our money," he said. "And if we put it in the right location we can forego the cost of building substations for many years."

Plausible occurrences in the future, Ates said, would be having the ability to house Douglas County Ambulances, much as Baldwin City did. He also sees the possibility of combining with the Eudora Township Fire Department.

Ates would like to see a facility built that could house fire, EMS and police departments, much like the current facility.

"It works well now because it facilitates communication," he said. "If the agencies are going to be using the same things like locker rooms, showers, a kitchenette - again, we're saving money. Plus, we'd be keeping the closeness that the fire and EMS and police enjoy here."

In the event that a new facility is built for fire and EMS, Beatty said it makes more sense for the police department to take over the building at 840 Main St., rather than spend extra money to build a facility that would be big enough for all three entities.

"When you talk about a police, fire and EMS all together, then we're talking about a really big building," she said. "A better, more efficient use of dollars is to utilize the building that we have for the police department."

The growth seen in Eudora during the past 10 years has caused a need for infrastructure to catch up. A new community center, a $45 million school bond issue and water and sewage systems all are upgrades that have been proof of the need. So, Ates knows some residents might balk at spending more money.

In fact, that is his main concern, as he considered cost of research for the bond issue costing thousands of dollars.

"It appears that most of the expense is going to be in drawing up the plans for the building itself," Ates said. "I don't want to blow $10,000 on designs and research and then have the whole thing get voted down and we've just wasted the taxpayers' money. That bothers me."

After all artist's rendering and architectural drawings are finished, the findings will be brought to the city council, who will then decide how much more research should be done.

Beatty estimated such findings would be brought before the council sometime in May.

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