With a 4-0 vote on the evening of Dec. 18, the Bingen City Council made a historic decision to go ahead with construction of a new fire station in 2002.
Work is expected to begin in early 2002, perhaps as early as March. The new fire station will be built where the existing fire hall building -- which also houses Bingen City Hall -- now sits. That means the city's offices and all the Fire Department's trucks and equipment will need to be moved to a temporary site before demolition of the current site can begin.
Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel promised that the city would gear up for the challenge.
"We'll make it work," Prigel said. "We will start working this week to make this happen."
Fire trucks and gear are expected to be placed on the empty lot at 400 W. Steuben during the construction. The station is projected for completion before November 2002 when freezing weather is likely to return.
Before the vote, the council had been considering whether to delay the project for another year, but that approach was emphatically rejected in favor of action. Council members were unanimous in their belief that nothing would be served by holding off for a year.
"Construction rates are likely to go up more than the savings rate," said Councilor David Spratt.
"We won't make more money by waiting," agreed City Clerk Jan Brending. "We would probably incur more costs by delaying."
"Right now is the time. It looks like we have the (initial) funding, and maybe this decision will spark the community into fundraising," said council member Randy Anderson.
Teresa Schuemann questioned if it was realistic to execute a move of City Hall offices by spring.
"It's going to require effort," responded Brending, "but nothing we can't handle. It may be a bare bones office, but we'll make do."
"It may require volunteers to move the clerk's office over the weekend and be open on Monday," added Prigel. "We'll make it work."
Although not all the funding is yet lined up, the City Council determined that funds could be transferred from other city departments if needed. In that event, the planned community fundraising effort would be geared toward repaying the money that may have been shifted.
"If we choose to reallocate funds, it in no way reduces the need to start a fundraising effort," Prigel pointed out.
Prigel took note of the importance of the council's decision to proceed with the new fire hall.
"When I started as mayor, I had two goals," Prigel said. "Clean up the downtown area and and build a sense of community. After four years of planning, things are going to happen. When all this starts, I'm hoping that it is a spark and we can energize the community."
The new fire station is expected to cost approximately $800,000. The city has $540,000 already set aside for the construction project.