Written by MARK JAEGER
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 17:28
With so many projects pending, referendum on fire station plan suggested
The Village of Fredonia has a lot on its financial plate, and that is starting to concern several village trustees.
At the last Village Board meeting, Trustee Scott Ehaney cited the growing list of current and proposed capital projects in calling for a comprehensive schedule to help in future decision making.
Ehaney noted that the village is still paying for the extension of Martin Drive, while gearing up for the reconstruction of Fredonia Avenue.
He said adding to the anticipated debt is the scheduled replacement of an ambulance and the call for a new or modified fire station.
“It has gotten to the point were there are so many things coming down at once I don’t know that we can consider anything else until we see what is coming up,” Ehaney said.
The village developed a capital spending schedule several years ago, but hasn’t kept that document current.
Trustees forwarded the task of developing a long-range capital borrowing schedule to the Finance Committee. A tentative timetable, which runs through 2031, was reviewed by that committee last week.
Trustee Jill Bertram called for an even more drastic measure, when she suggested a referendum be held on the possible replacement of the fire station.
A needs assessment study prepared earlier this year by Strand Associates suggested it could cost as much as $1.8 million to renovate and expand the current fire station or $2.6 million to build a new station.
“I think this is too much for us to decide on our own,” Bertram said.
“I would like to see a binding referendum. If the voters say they want to spend that kind of money, who are we to say no.”
She said it would be critical to tell voters how much their taxes would increase if a new fire station is built.
Officials said it is too late for a binding referendum to be included on the November general election ballot, but that should not be an issue because the village is not poised to make a decision on the fire station.
Trustees agreed that if a referendum is held, the board should be bound by the outcome.
“We are expected to make decisions as a board, but there are certain things where we need input from the taxpayers,” Trustee Don Dohrwardt said.
Village President Chuck Lapicola noted that village officials would be precluded from lobbying one way or the other if a referendum is held, but said firefighters would not be bound by that restriction.
“It would all be up to the Fredonia Fire Department members to go out and sell it to the community,” Lapicola said, “and make sure people come to an open house that shows what we have and the conditions the department is operating under.”
Trustee Fritz Buchholtz said a referendum would help the board make a difficult decision.
“It may come down to a decision of not whether a new fire station would be a good thing, but whether we can afford it,” Buchholtz said.