FMFD holds first open house on bonding request

City wants to get as many people as possible to come see 65-year-old building


FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison fire department opened all its 65-year-old doors to the community Wednesday evening.
The first of three open houses was held at the only fire station in the city to show residents why the city is putting a question on the ballot in November that would permit them to borrow up to $12 million for the construction of a new facility.
Fire Chief Joey Herren is quick to add that the city will only borrow what, if anything, it needs beyond grants to pay for the structure.
He said he had no expectations initially from the open houses.
“I have no clue what to expect. We’re going to do it three times. Another one in August and then one in October. And we’ll go out to all the groups, the Lions, and Rotary,…” Herren said.
“This is us asking for permission for the $12 million so we can start working on grants. When I started filling out grants, we were told they were going to ask us if we had the money to pay if you can’t get all the grant money. Well, I don’t have that now so I need permission from voters to say we do.”
The city is also looking to build a new public works facility. But many of the city’s public works funds are enterprise funds and they generate revenues which could help with the costs of construction.
Herron said when he started in 1997, the fire department was doing 300 runs a year, and now they are at 1,800 or so per year.
The new fire station is being planned for space where the current public works buildings are in the 2000 block of Avenue L. The building is designed at approximately 26,000 square foot with living spaces, training spaces,  public entry space with restrooms, a workout area, 12 bays, a hose drying tower, bunker gear, cleaning and drying spaces, a mezzanine for additional storage space, and critical decontamination stations.
Herron said the city is a couple years out on construction, but the bond will help them move forward.
Fort Madison City Manager Laura Leigois said the open houses are important to get information out for people to come and see what the current fire station situation is.
“They can see and understand the need for a new fire station,” she said. “We have equipment in other places beyond the station so we need to upgrade."
The impact of a $12 million bond in the current levy environment would impact a property owner with a $100,000 home about $9.57 per month or about $115 a year. A $200,000 home would be impacted about $243 annually.
The current rollback by the state on assessed valuations is 46.3%.
“I think it’s good to get feedback from the community with this open house. I would like people to come back, especially if they’ve never been here, and give us feedback. They should talk to our staff and get to know them,” she said.
She said the estimated cost of $12 million is one thing, but the city has in the past seen bids come in way over what was designed and estimated.
“You plan ahead and then you get all the money in line and then the bids come in high and you’re in trouble,” she said.
She said Fort Madison’s relationship with state elected officials is strong and Mayor Matt Mohrfeld has done a lot to make them stronger.
“If you have a good preliminary design and feedback you can go get the money,” she said. “That’s my whole thing. I need preliminary design funds to get going.”
Other open houses will be on Aug. 24 from noon to 4 p.m. and Oct. 17 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
There is also a Coffee with a Firefighters at Swed & Co on Oct. 26th from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Fort Madison, fire department, open house, bond, facility, project, Pen City Current, news, voters, ballots, Joey Herron, Laura Leigois,


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