They City of Eudora has begun taking a look at designs for a proposed public safety building to be located at 10th and Main streets in downtown Eudora.
City Council members and city officials were recently presented with preliminary conceptual drawings based upon ideas of what the City Council wanted to see in the look of a new building and what officials deem necessary to support services such as Fire, EMS and Police needs.
The current fire station was graded as poor to failing in management audits conducted in 2010. Since those audits were released to the Council, they, along with City administration, have been studying the issue on how to increase those grades.
A new building does not come without a price though. Current estimates to build the facility would require a mill levy increase for the city property taxes. Currently, that increase is projected to be 2.85 mills. As an example, a house valued at $150,000 would see an increase of approximately $49 per year on their property taxes. The level of the mill levy increase is not set in stone as of this moment either. City leaders state that the number could move either up or down depending on multiple factors.
“Douglas County expects that property valuations will go down 1.5 percent in the coming year,” City Administrator John Harrenstein said. “A decrease in assessed valuation may impact the amount of mill levy needed for the building.”
Harrenstein also stated that anticipated growth in the city could help offset some of the mill increase.
“With businesses like Family Dollar opening soon, the effects of a decrease in assessed valuation may be mitigated by economic growth.”
In an attempt to control the cost and to give the Council an option in proceeding forward, the project will be a bid with the Police Department as part of the building and without the Police Department addition. If the project ends up moving forward without the Police Department portion, the Police would use the current facility that houses both the Police and Fire Departments.
This is an artist’s concept view of the proposed public safety building. The building would sit at an angle at the corner of 10th and Main. In this drawing, 10th street would be running across the top of the photo from left to right and Main Street runs on the right hand side with the fire station driveway having access to both streets.
This project does not necessarily have complete unanimous support from all of the City Council either.
“I know the need is there,” Eudora City Councilman Kenny Massey told us. “But I’m leery with the economy the way it is and the property valuations likely going down.”
Councilman Tim Reazin also is concerned about the possible tax increase.
“I thought that we were supposed to do this without a tax increase. That is not really what I was hoping for,” Reazin said.
Reazin added that, as a former volunteer firefighter for the department, he knows the need is there.
“The current building has a safety concern. A safer environment for our firefighters is what concerns me.”
While other members of the Council are concerned about the tax ramifications, several talked about the need of a new fire station.
“This is a necessary structure and fulfills the need of the community,” Councilman John Fiore told us. “Anyone who has toured the current facility can certainly see that need.”
Councilwoman Ruth Hughs also focused on the need of the building.
“As a taxpayer who owns a home, I know it’s a sizable increase,” Hughs said. “I also know that my safety is worth something too. I’m hoping for ambulance service down the road and right now, we do not have a place to put one.”
Hughs went on to state that in discussions she has had with County officials, she was told that the current building would not be able to support the staff needs to have an ambulance stationed in Eudora. Currently, if a call is made to 911 and an ambulance is required, it has to come from Baldwin City or Lawrence.
Mayor Scott Hopson, while not a voting member of the Council, was also supporting the efforts to erect a new building.
“The tax increase does concern me, but we’ve made steps to try and save as much money as possible from day one,” Hopson said. “We’ve got our backs up against the wall because of the condition of the current building.”
Massey and other Council members will have an opportunity to talk about plans, possible tax increases and all things related to the proposed building in a special City Council meeting set for March 20 at 7:00 PM at Eudora City Hall. As with all City Council meetings, the public may attend this meeting.
“I want to be confident that we are not short changing other projects or city employees by doing this,” Massey told us. “My hard questions will come when we start talking about the price and how we are going to pay for it.”