Palo Turns to Residents to Decide Next Move on Fire Station Project

By Jill Kasparie, KCRG-TV9

PALO, Iowa — After years of discussions about a new fire station, the project has hit a bit of a stumbling block.

The city has been working toward getting a new facility for about five years. Firefighters say they need it because they’ve outgrown the current one.

The project is expected to go up right behind the new city hall, which is on Hollenbeck Road.

At a recent city council meeting, bids came in higher than expected. Council members voted against those. Now, the mayor and other council members have decided to turn to the public to get their opinions.

The city sent out ballots of public opinion in the mail to gauge people’s thoughts. All of the registered voters in the city started receiving those in the mail on Wednesday.

The decision is in their hands: Should crews build a new fire station on the empty lot?

Beverly Packingham didn’t take long to make up her mind.

“I’m just thought, I’m going to mark ‘no’ and forget it,” Packingham said.

The long-time Palo resident said the city should spend its money on other needed street repairs.

Down the road, Melissa Deiters also got the city letter. She’s leaning the other way on her decision.

“I don’t think it will be a bad thing for them to be able to expand as Palo expands,” Deiters said.

City leaders said the project is expected to cost, at its highest, about $780,000.

Josh Frank is on the council and the volunteer fire department. He wants to know what people think.

“Give us on the council an idea of what the town is looking for,” Frank said.

Some money has been set aside for the project, including TIF funding and grant money. The city received a state IJOBS grant for $500,000 a few years ago. It has already spent about $212,000 of it.

“We started doing — building a road out there, did some of the lot work,” Frank said.

Council members said if they decided not to move forward with the project, the city would have to pay that money back.

Frank said that’s where the numbers don’t quite add up.

“You’re looking at $212,000 that it’s going to cost the city to not build a fire station. We are looking at a little over $100,000 to build a fire station,” Frank said.

Still, the decision is ultimately up to the people.

“I’m still going to stick with ‘no’,” Packingham said.

“I think I’d be for it,” Deiters said.

Council members said the votes will decide if the council will proceed or if the council will put a stop to the project.

The city is asking people to come to a town-hall meeting at the Palo Fire Station on May 5 at 6:30 p.m. Following that, on May 6, the city is asking people to bring their votes to the City Hall/Community Center from 7:30 a.m. until 9 p.m.

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