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To build or not to build?

It's decision time as Bingen City Council considers whether to go forward with fire hall project

Bingen's goal of getting a new fire hall built in 2002 faces a final decision on the evening of Dec. 18. At a meeting that night, the Bingen City Council will either give its OK to get the project under way, or decide to hold off for one more year to allow more time for fundraising.

The estimated cost for fire station construction is approximately $800,000, and the city has $520,000 in the bank. But there is some concern that raising the remainder presents a difficult challenge.

If the City Council gives its approval, the city would begin the bidding to find a general contractor on the big project. Prigel anticipates bids going out in January, with bid opening by late February.

Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel questioned whether anything would be gained by delaying.

"One discussion is, we could get more interest on the money we have in the bank if we wait a year," Prigel said. "But interest rates are real low right now, and construction costs are likely to go up more than we would save."

If the council determines it is wiser to hold off, everything would be backed up one full year, with work getting started in spring 2003 instead of the spring of 2002.

Prigel said he leans toward moving forward without further delay.

"I'm going to recommend we go," Prigel said. "We don't have all the money allocated, and there is no way to raise the shortfall through donations. It's basically a budget issue, and we knew there would be a shortfall. But we can start on this and do a fundraising program at the same time."

Plans call for a modern and significantly expanded fire station to be built on the site of the current Fire Department/City Hall building. That means City Hall would have to be temporarily relocated and the fire trucks would be based outdoors for several months.

The new fire station would encompass approximately 5,500-6,000 square feet, and have four full truck bays. The existing station has less than 4,000 square feet and two and a half bays for trucks.

City Council member Dave Spratt, who is also one of the city's volunteer firefighters, said he wants to see the project get a green light sooner rather than later.

"I'd like to see it built as soon as possible," Spratt said. "I'm afraid costs are going to skyrocket if we wait."

Prigel points out that once a decision is made, other aspects of the project will need to be dealt with.

"We have to find an alternate site for City Hall," Prigel said. "We have to make a decision. If we're going to go forward, we need to start packing and start planning."

One concern is for the fire trucks, which cannot remain outside for long in freezing weather as the water pumps could freeze.

"We're under a timeline," Prigel explained. "As soon as we're past the threat of freezing weather -- probably late March -- we could move the trucks outside. Then we have to have the trucks back under protective cover by early November."

During construction, the trucks would be based at the empty city lot at 400 W. Steuben. Temporary fencing would go around the lot, and a temporary construction trailer -- which would hold turnout gear for the city's volunteer firefighters -- would also be put there.

"That site is not final, but that is the proposal at this point," Prigel said. "That is one of the issues we have to work out."


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