Fire hall, slough project receive funds

Derrick Calhoun Star Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 11, 2022
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The above file photo shows the Miles City Fire Department building on Main Street. STAR FILE PHOTO

The Miles City City Council voted last night on the allocation of roughly $2.1 million dollars in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

The city council unanimously decided to distribute the funds between the slough project and Miles City Fire Rescue (MCFR).

The slough project will receive around $500,000 to be used as a match for a grant that will fund the roughly $4 million dollar project. MCFR will be receiving around $1.6 million of the funds, putting the money toward the end costs of either remodeling their current condemned fire hall or building a new fire hall.

The building was condemned in 2018 due to structural damage to the roof.

According to the Preliminary Architectural Report (PAR) that MCFR had done, the cost for remodeling the current fire hall will end up being around $5.4 million where as the cost for building a new fire hall would be $5.7 million.

The decision on whether the city decides to remodel the current fire hall or build a new one will be voted on at a future council meeting, following a still unscheduled public meeting on the matter. The public will have the opportunity to learn more about the project as well as comment and ask questions at the meeting.

If the city can't find funding like grants or donors there is a possibility that there would need to be a Public Safety Levy. The levy would increase taxes for community members. 

The decision on where to allocate the ARPA funds came down to a decision between the MCFR for their fire hall and the Yellowstone Levee project.

Miles City Floodplain Administrator Samantha Malenovsky presented in front of the city council on why she felt the funds should go toward the levee project and MCFR Chief Branden Stevens presented on why he felt MCFR should receive the funds.

Prior to the council’s discussion on the matter Malenovsky added that she had discussed looking into a Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Grant with Stevens and so whoever didn’t receive the ARPA money would be trying for that grant.

A BRIC Grant is a competitive FEMA grant program that supports local communities, tribes and territories.

A lengthy discussion between the council ensued.

Earlier in the meeting council member Ken Gardner brought up the issue of allocating the funds, saying that he had talked to a number of residents in his Ward 1, who voiced an opinion that the funds should go to the levee project.

When the issue came back up before council during the New Business portion of the agenda, council member Dwayne Andrews immediately moved to the council that they approve the $500,000 for the slough project and then give the rest to MCFR which he said “has been condemned by multiple people.” The motion was seconded by council member Roxanna Brush.

Council member Butch Grenz said that he would personally like to see the funds go to the levee, saying that it would generate money. He also said that the slough should be a secondary priority because they don’t see problems with it very often.

Council member Brant Kastner agreed with Grenz, saying that both the levee project and the fire hall are big issues, but if the money goes to the levee project then they are guaranteed to have the money go to the slough and levee, getting two projects going. He said with the fire hall even if they allocate the money to them approval still has to go through a public hearing for more funding.

Council member Kathy Wilcox said that her concerns with giving the funding to the levee project was that it could end up that the price of the project gets so large that they run into the same issues to find funding that they are having with the tongue river project. She said that if the funds go to the fire hall they know they will have something concrete.

Grenz spoke up again saying that he would be for giving MCFR money if they saw how much it cost to fix the roof of the fire hall. He said he wouldn’t support a brand new building. He wanted someone to take the roof off to see if there was anything they could do to fix it.

Stevens clarified that inspectors told them that if they did have the ceiling removed then they would be required to bring the building completely up to code, which is the remodeling option that would cost $5.4 million.

City Attorney Dan Rice clarified at this point that the city can’t make any changes to the building on their own, like having a contractor just go down to the fire hall, look at the issues, and give them an estimate. He said that it would require them to have an architect go down, and eventually lead to them having to put bids out. He just wanted to make that clear to the council.

Up to this point in the discussion multiple council members had implied that they could just have someone go down to the fire hall and see how much it would cost to fix.

While discussing the strength of the current roof of the fire hall, which has been proven to be unsafe, Grenz mentioned the heavy snow that the city received recently, saying the roof held up fine.

Stevens continued to clarify that three building inspectors, all working for the city, as well as a structural engineer told them that the building will not support a new roof.

Malenovsky spoke up, saying that although she will always fight for funding to get the levee project done she also understands that the fire hall is an issue the city also needs to deal with. She talked about how the city needs to take care of the fire department, that they need a home.

She also mentioned that she knows the levee project is going to be a big project, and she knows that it might eventually become so expensive that they will need funding from congress like they are dealing with the Tongue River. She said that she just wanted to make sure the city council had all the facts.

Kastner then called for the question, which was voted on and passed unanimously. Calling the question ended further discussion and moved the council directly to a vote on whether to allocate the money to the slough project and MCFR.

(Contact Derrick Calhoun at mcsportsreporter@gmail.com or at 406-234-0450.)

(Editor's Note: This story has been changed to reflect the correct amount for a new fire hall along with information about a levy.)

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