Letter: Should taxpayer funds be used another way?

Published 10:00 pm Monday, October 30, 2017

Has the decision to build a new fire station been finalized? With the hospital leaving and with the loss of the new Hy-Vee distribution center to Austin, it appears Albert Lea’s downward spiral will be accelerating. Is it wise for the city to spend up to $10 million for a new fire station?

Some of the reasons given for needing a new for fire station:

• Need more room: The Fire Department bought a new truck that “barely” fits into the current station. The Fire Department claims the cost for a slightly smaller truck would cost up to triple the cost of the new big truck.

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A: It doesn’t seem possible a smaller tuck would cost more. With declining population for the past 40 years, aren’t there less firemen now?

• Bad location: The Fire Department claims their current location is a bad location for access to Albert Lea.

A: The current station is on Fountain Street, which gives quick access to west Albert Lea. The current station is one block from Broadway, which gives them quick access to south Albert Lea. The current station is two blocks from Bridge Avenue, which provides quick access to north Albert Lea. The current station is four blocks from Main Street, which provides quick access to the east of Albert Lea. It appears the current station is actually centrally located and provides good access to all parts of Albert Lea. Is there a better site that would justify spending up to $10 million?

• EOE requirements: The current fire station doesn’t meet EOE guidelines for handicapped access and facilities for women.

A: The current Fire Department facility doesn’t need to comply with current EOE guidelines. EOE guidelines do not need to be met unless a new station is built. To date, there has never been a handicapped or woman firefighter. Should a woman or handicapped firefighter be hired, couldn’t slight remodeling to the current structure suffice? Many businesses have added access ramps and unisex bathrooms without building a new building.

• Current Fire Department is too small.

A: The number of firemen should be declining as Albert Lea continues to lose population. With the many vacant properties, some close to the current fire station, could an additional space be rented for training and auxiliary equipment? Possibly the old township station could be an auxiliary branch.

• It will bring people to Albert Lea and lower residents’ insurance.

A: It is doubtful anyone would choose to move to Albert Lea because of a new fire station. Homeowners insurance rates decreasing is questionable and was not substantiated. No discussion was made of how much property taxes will increase.

There was a lot of spirited debate on this topic on the “You Know You Are From Albert Lea If..” Facebook site. Supporters of the Fire Department, specifically Brad Kramer, had those debates removed, and I am blocked from the page. I am the only person blocked from the page. One hundred thirty people “liked” my post. I was also blocked on the city of Albert Lea web page. This is a government organization funded by taxpayers dollars, so this issue should be allowed to be debated freely.

The Fire Department is a great department. They provide great service, and we all feel safe. But maybe we need to use taxpayer funds for many other smaller expenditures that could help boost Albert Lea into a growth period.

Marlin Johnson

Daytona Beach, Florida