Fire department looks to build new fire hall
BELFIELD -- The Belfield Fire Department may be short-staffed, but it has still outgrown its current facility. The department is working to construct a new fire hall building south of town. The need for a new facility has been under review for at...
BELFIELD -- The Belfield Fire Department may be short-staffed, but it has still outgrown its current facility.
The department is working to construct a new fire hall building south of town.
The need for a new facility has been under review for at least the last six years. Hammering out the details, however, didn't begin until this year, said Belfield Fire Chief Kevin Hushka.
Hushka has been fire chief for 11 years. He owns Kevin's Auto & Truck Repair down the street from the current fire hall. Originally from South Heart, Hushka has been on the Belfield Fire Department for 13 years.
"I own a business in town and thought I should help out while I was here," Hushka said. "I saw we're always short of people on the fire department and that was always an interest of mine. Before I knew it, I ended up becoming fire chief."
There are 18 firefighters, the fewest the Belfield department has had in many years. Its largest count was 24, he added.
The new hall is a long time coming.
"At first, we were just going to add on to the current building where vehicles are parked sideways and behind each other," Hushka said. "We knew we needed at least double the size of our current place."
The need for a new building has come from the department gradually acquiring more equipment over the years, which is more than the current facility can hold.
The hall houses a grass fire unit, a support van, the town's ambulance and two pumping units. The newest addition is a hazardous materials (hazmat) vehicle, which has to stay outside year around. There is a small meeting room/office area in one part of the building, the garage with the vehicles and a corner for the firefighters' gear.
"We got the hazmat in 2005 and it sits outside," Hushka said. "Kids get on it and step on the valves. A tire is flat and the paint is faded. We're lucky we haven't needed to use it since 2005."
"I wanted to make sure there will be a bigger training area and meeting room, an emergency bay twice as long and a bigger storage area," Hushka said.
The Belfield City Council approved the new fire hall project in July.
A feasibility study was completed earlier this year to qualify for federal funding. From this study, the council learned it would be against federal regulations to add to the current building since it is in a 500-year flood plain area.
"We also realized it would be cheaper to build a new place than remodel the old one," Hushka said. "With the feasibility study, we committed to the double size for a new building in a different location and received a preliminary USDA grant of $30,000 for the study, plans and specs, which the Roosevelt Custer Regional Council applied for on our behalf."
The new fire hall has been part of the city's strategic planning efforts through the public meetings prompted by the council's support.
"The doubled size is adequate for now, but the building is being designed to be able to be added on to for future expansion if we run out of room (again)," Hushka said.
The location of the new building is on the south side of town down Main Street where two old greenhouses stand. The greenhouses are to be removed in the near future.
The department looked at several different lots that were still too close to the 500-year flood plain.
"We looked for an accessible spot," he added. "It's the best location because it splits the town in half so we can go either direction with about the same distance."
The USDA is reviewing the preliminary building plans, which are the unofficial blueprints for the new facility. Once the plans are approved, the bids go out for construction. Hushka said the construction should begin in the spring of 2008 to avoid extra costs with working in the winter.
Due to loans and grants, the fire department has to be moved in and the facility must be operational by the end of next year.
"Some of our money runs out at the end of 2008, so we have to push the project along as fast as we can," Hushka said. "I think it is feasible though. Construction should only take a couple months."
The original estimate for the new building from the feasibility study is $305,000. The city has been saving over the past four years for the new hall with four EDIO Energy Impact grants totaling $40,000, said Belfield City Auditor Cindy Ewoniuk.
Other funds have come from a $53,900 community development block grant from the Custer council, which will be slightly less due to administrative fees. The fire department also has raised funds during the past few years and has pledged $15,000.
A bulk of the funds is from the USDA, which already has reimbursed the city for the cost of the feasibility study. The city received a $45,675 USDA grant and a $132,825 low-interest loan. Ewoniuk said the city is responsible for securing further funds that are needed later.
The old fire hall could become a city shop, but no formal plans are in place for that building.