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Fire chief to seek bids
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MONROE - Fire Chief Daryl Rausch got authorization to seek bids for the proposed $800,000 fire station building on the city's west side in a Common Council special meeting Monday night.

Rausch said he will publish the bid request for first phase of the project Dec. 4 and Dec. 11 in the newspaper and in the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

Phase 1 of the project includes site preparation, a steel building, the driveway and utilities on the 2.3 acres set aside in the Honey Creek Industrial Park.

Requests for bids on the second phase, which includes interior finishing and the third phase, which would install a sprinkler system, will be published Dec. 17 and 24.

The project was separated into the three phases to increase the chances for local contractors to bid, Rausch said. Contractors will pick up the requests on their list servers, and bids could come from a three-state area, he said.

Council members voted 8-1 in favor of the authorization, with Alderman Thurston Hanson voting against the authorization.

While Hanson said having a second fire station was a good idea, the project can wait.

"I don't think it's the (right) time to proceed with $3 million in bonds with the economy in turmoil and no end in sight," he said.

Bonding and financing for the 8th/9th Street and fire station together would run about $3 million. The city has the option of separating the two projects for bonding purposes. The council has not yet approved financing for either project.

Alderman Charles Koch said the poor economy is a reason why the time is right to proceed.

"You get better bids because the economy is down. When it comes time to start paying back, ideally the economy will be going up," he said.

Building a second station "should have been in 2006," Alderman Mark Coplien said.

"Every year (we wait), it cost us more," he said.

For the first five years, interest payments would be about $35,000 annually, Rausch said.

If the city levied the amount in taxes, the cost to the owner of a $100,000 house would be about $5 annually during the first five years. The average cost over the lifetime of a 20-year loan would be about $7 a year on a $100,000 house.

Rausch thinks the city "can build the station without raising taxes at all" and still maintain a capital account balance to cover the cost of new engines scheduled to be purchased in 2012 and 2017.

Rausch presently sets about $57,000 annually into the fire department's capital account. But some of that money can be used instead for the interest payments, he said. Rausch also believes the city could support the finished station without added taxes.

The cost of utilities for the new station will be about $10,000 to $12,000 per year, he said. The entire west-side fire station project is expected to cost $900,000.

Of the extra $100,000, about $30,000 will go to the cost of building plans, site plans, and permits; $43,000 will be used to purchase additional building equipment for the station. About $24,000 will go to remodeling one bay in the current fire station for office space for the police department, while the remaining $3,000 is intended to pay for the bonding process.

The fire department is not increasing its number of fire engines or personnel.

The main purpose of the second station is to cut down on response time to the west side, Rausch said.

Currently, west-side "reflex time" - the time dispatch gets a call until firefighters are on site spraying water - is about 13.5 minutes. Other parts of the city get a reflex time of about 6.8 minutes.

Calls to the west side have increased in the past five years, from 25 in 2004 to 90 from November 2008 to November 2009.

The second station would probably not improve Monroe's overall Class 3 fire rating, except on the far west side, past 4th Avenue West, which currently has a Class 5 rating. A Class 5 rating increases a property owner's fire insurance by about 4 percent, he said, but a west-side station would give that area a Class 3 rating.