FEMA flood study recommends moving Vinton fire station away from river

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VINTON, Iowa (KCRG TV9)- A months-long federal flood study in Vinton is finished. And the verdict by FEMA? The city of Vinton needs to move the fire station away from the Cedar River.

A sign shows the high water mark on the Vinton Fire Station following the historic flood of 2008. A FEMA report recommends the city consider moving the fire station away from the river.

The Benton County community’s fire station, built decades ago, literally sits on the banks of the Cedar River. In 2008, high water did significant damage to the fire station.

HESCO sand barriers put up by volunteers and firefighters helped keep flood damage to a minimum in both 2013 and last year.

The FEMA study, begun last winter, puts the price tag on a relocated fire station and ambulance service at $6.1-million dollars. The report notes federal grant money could cover about three quarters of the cost with the city and state picking up the rest.

City leaders say that’s still a hefty price tag and literally months of discussion lie ahead before any final decision is made.

Charlie Garwood, assistant volunteer fire chief, says something needs to be done because the fire station has gone through three major flood events in just the last 10 years.

“It’s very disruptive, we manned this station 24 hours a day and we worked in shifts manning the pumps making sure we kept the water at bay from seeping inside.

Garwood says while sand barriers kept most of the water out the last two times, the building is settling and sinking in spots due to water seeping in after floods.

The FEMA study outlined a number of options for the city aside from relocating the fire station. Other options would be flood walls around the station and the next door Vinton Municipal Electric Utility building as well

The most expensive flood wall fix could cost in excess of $20-million dollars.

Mike Barron, a member of the municipal utility board, says protecting or relocating the electric plant as well as the fire station would be very expensive.

He expects the city to tackle the potential fire station move first.

“It would be a long term ordeal because moving the generators we have now would be a huge undertaking. Shutting them down, scrapping them that would also be another big decision,” he said.

Gary McKenna, Vinton volunteer fire chief, would prefer a move to the more expensive flood wall plans.

He even has a preferred location—a closed restaurant on Highway 218.

Vinton’s city administrator doesn’t expect discussions about moving the fire station or any of the other proposals to start until after the new year, with a new city council.