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Sunday, May 1, 2016

City: Facilities make tough jobs harder to do

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cramped facilities are making the police departments already difficult job even tougher, according to Chief of Police, Isaac S. Brown during an open house hosted by the Public Service Center Thursday evening.
Insufficient space is making the police department's job harder and keeping the fire department from replacing vehicles on schedule.

McCook Fire Chief, Marc Harpham made that point as he stood in the 24-inch spacing between ambulance and fire truck as he described the 4-foot-plus space that was actually needed to upgrade the ambulance.

"This size of ambulance is not available anymore," he said. "We would have to go with the larger model, which we don't have room to park."

McCook Fire Chief, Marc Harpham stands in the 24 inch spacing between ambulance and fire truck as he describes the four foot plus space that is needed to upgrade the dated ambulance. (Bruce Baker/McCook Daily Gazette)
The chief also said that while 15 years is the scheduled life span for the department's ambulances, "this one is over 17 years and the crash truck is in the same scenario."

Harpham cited increased maintenance costs as a concern when working with aged vehicles.

Acting Lieutenant Shane Smith also described occurrences of the aged overhead doors in the bay getting stuck while raising, which led to further damage to the bay doors requiring door and panel replacement.

Fire Department personnel quarters are cramped as well, and a storage room was recently converted to quarters to accommodate a female temp, which caused further congestion and has made access to file cabinets difficult.

Although the group Chief of Police Isaac Brown led through the police department side of the public service center numbered only a dozen, the first six were the only ones able to make eye contact with the guide for most of the tour.

A labyrinth of a floor plan and logistical problems such as officers having to go outside and around the building, to access a 10-by-10 foot interview room, which is also at maximum capacity with one desk in it. "Of course that means through the snow certain times of the year" added the chief.

The block walls of the facility also limit access to electrical wires for certain areas, restricting computers and other electrical equipment to placement on certain walls. This is compounded with dated wiring and "we have been told we cannot add a single outlet without an electrical upgrade, which will not fix the issue of dated wiring" the chief said. The dated wiring has trouble carrying its current load at times, which causes weekly power surges that have damaged equipment.

"Each year we replace monitors and other equipment simply due to these power surges" added the chief.

City Manager Kurt Fritsch was asked about the possibility of the county partnering with the city on a new facility and responded that he "didn't believe the county was ready to move on that."

County commissioner, Leigh Hoyt confirmed "that's the way the vote went."

When questioned by the group regarding the differences in the new City Service Center plan from four years ago vs. the current proposal, Fritsch responded that the current fire station plan as a better plan and the city administration was not part of that plan four years ago.

Brown was asked if it had been difficult to rally public support for an improvement over such an obviously insufficient building and the chief speculated that "the public may see the end result [of our department], but may not be seeing what has gone on to get there. I hope folks take an opportunity to look at it."

The chief later added, "We try to do a good job 24/7; deteriorating facilities that are so cramped make that job tougher to do. The public needs to decide, and I truly respect and appreciate that.

"My hope is that down the road we have a facility designed for its function and one that the community can be proud of."

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If a new facility is built, what will be done with the old one?? Could it be remodeled into a fire or police facility and another already built building like the old guard building remodeled into a fire or police facility? They would be separate, but utilizing what we already have in the city.

If the county wants into the picture, use the old west ward site for county sherrif and jail facility. Tear down the old building and build a new jail. It has to be done sooner or later. We do have stimulus money that is available?? Not for sure if we do, but there is money out there the city and county can get for all this. They Keystone project was done. Why can't the city and county approach this the same way?? Just a thought.

-- Posted by edbru on Fri, May 14, 2010, at 2:39 PM

Huh? I'm not sure I'm following you. Remodel the old fire and police facility into a new one? And build a county jail and sheriff's office on the property owned by the city? I'm sure that if there's stimulus funding available, the city would be all over it. I thought the fire department applied for some stimulus funding to build a fire station.

-- Posted by McCook Supporter on Fri, May 14, 2010, at 3:47 PM

They start out with one idea and change it all the time. Why can't we offer ideas like they do?? It seems they have gone full circle on ideas and jumped over good ones in the past. The stimulus has just made eyes get big, like a kid in a candy store does. Too much flashy glittery stuff on the table. We need to get back to the basics. It is what the city needs, not what they want. There is a difference.

-- Posted by edbru on Fri, May 14, 2010, at 7:05 PM

Did both of you go to the open house to honestly see the condition of the current facilities?

-- Posted by susanne_1989 on Fri, May 14, 2010, at 8:21 PM

The current facility is in sad, sad shape, have you looked at the wiring for the 911 system??? They NEED a new place, they might want one too, but who wouldn't want to work in a facility that met the needs of those who work there. I would like to see the county and city come to some sort of an agreement so this is done once and the right way.

-- Posted by McCook Gal on Fri, May 14, 2010, at 8:39 PM

Oh I completely agree!!!! and IT'S NOT FOR THEM. When you honestly think about it, IT'S FOR US. To help us when we have a car accident, a fire, a medical emergency, criminal acitivity. Those men and women need a safe working environmnet to be able to respond efficently when called upon.

-- Posted by susanne_1989 on Fri, May 14, 2010, at 9:19 PM

Please review all the financing options for this project. The stimulus funds are not there. The fire dept applied for a grant that did not happen. The cost would on the tax payers..

-- Posted by big32bubba on Sat, May 15, 2010, at 7:29 AM

Here's one, lets scrap the old FD's and PD's and go to one single unit. Combine the city FD with the rural FD, and the city PD with the sheriff department. This alone would save costs and make the whole emergency department so much more efficient. This is the 21st century isn't it.

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Sat, May 15, 2010, at 12:16 PM

Good idea Chunky PB. Let's hope they listen to someone and not just do lots of wishful thinking. That thinking costs the taxpayer more than it should.

This city council is has so many ideas about this, that it is confusing to see which way they are going. There are only a few on the council that have sense enough to know what is happening.

-- Posted by edbru on Sat, May 15, 2010, at 1:01 PM

Hey, Chunky....good idea? Well, my guess is you better be prepared to pay double the price for the FD and double the price for the PD if you're combining them all. edbru, maybe you should run for the McCook City Council. It's easy to sit back on you #%$ and take pot shots but when you're actually in their shoes making the important decisions, it's a little different. I would guess that if you're going to combine everything, the price for it all will be outrageous. Lets throw in a flower shop and maybe a drive inn. Oh, and don't forget a barber shop and maybe a department store. Then again, with all that you just as well add a small school to the project too....

-- Posted by McCook Supporter on Sat, May 15, 2010, at 10:23 PM

Quit debating this. The city will spend what ever they want on the project with the taxpayer on the hook for whatever they decide to do. If it doesn't pass a vote they will just allocate sales tax dollars for it. They already have 1 million of the new sales tax dollars set aside for it already.

More people would run for elected office if it wasn't a totally consuming career. That is the problem, government is growing so fast around here that you can't afford to hold down a private sector job and hold elected office. So really you shouldn't expect private sector solutions from a council and city management dominated by public sector mindsets.

-- Posted by sleeper on Sun, May 16, 2010, at 9:59 AM

Good Lord! Some of the comments here are truly mind-boggling...especially 'chunky' and 'sleeper'. Maybe I'll come visit you folks when I get of living in reality.

First, I hope people DON'T stop debating this issue! That's one of the fundamental pieces of our freedom...so even the people with marginally rational ideas should speak freely.

It would not be possible to consolidate the R-W Western Rural Fire Dept with the McCook City FD. The rural district is huge - they receive their funding from rural taxpayers - their training requirements are different - I could go on & on, but that's a can of worms best left closed.

Sleeper; I would argue that since the Mayor and City Mgr have gone public and said they want to know what the people want regarding a new facility, it's unlikely they would forge ahead and do whatever they want. You are correct that the city has $1 mil set aside for a project like this. But, keep in mind that's from the city sales tax they've been collecting for years, and a new fire/police building would be paid for out of those same tax receipts.

How can anyone look at the current fire/police station and with a clear conscience say that McCook doesn't need something better for the people who serve & protect us everyday? Even if you don't consider the fact that 100% of your city's fire and EMS apparatus sits 50-feet from a rail yard, and is under constant risk for a hazardous material incident (Yeah, if 1 of the hundreds of rail cars that roll through would happen to leak or derail, we would be darn lucky if ANY of the fire trucks made it out of the barn!), you still have to understand that the building they're in now wasn't designed for anything more than a warehouse.

Nobody wants higher taxes. I get that. But the idea they presented for using sales tax dollars (that are already coming in) and leaving our property tax as-is, seems to be a no-brainer.

-- Posted by Justin Case on Mon, May 17, 2010, at 4:56 PM

Nothing was ever mentioned during the sales tax push to build a 6 million dollar safety center with the 1.5% sales tax. It is just a way for them to not ask for permission to build projects like this. I know they are asking now, but the mindset of this City Manager and Council is they really don't have to ask to how to spend the money. It truly is a blank check for them to build their personal legacy on. Everything that was discussed then was paying down debt and fixing streets and water lines. I guess those will have to wait for the next crisis. Be my guest in volunteering to pay more taxes since you seem to like the city sales tax as pretty soon the feds will be imposing a value added tax on everything we buy. Can you say Europe?

-- Posted by sleeper on Mon, May 17, 2010, at 8:40 PM

I'm with Justin. Just absolutely boggles my mind!!!! What happens when ur house is on fire and the trucks can't get out of the barn? What happens when you have a medical emergency and the paramedics on duty can't get to you? THINK ABOUT IT!!!!! This is not rocket science.

I think, but not positive, they have trimmed down the original proposals for the new facilities to lower some of the cost.

These men and women don't want the Ritz, they NEED, and pry want, a facility to efficiently do the best job they can!!! PLAIN AND SIMPLE!!!

-- Posted by susanne_1989 on Mon, May 17, 2010, at 9:37 PM

Thanks 'susanne_1989' for adding some common sense to this thread! I was starting to wonder if everybody who posts to this board had all lost their marbles.

"sleeper", are you still under the assumption that the City Mgr & Mayor have aspirations of pushing this through regardless of what the majority will support? It would be a political disaster if the simple majority say "no", and I refuse to believe the project would happen anyway.

Evidently you and the rest of the 'vocal minority' who staunchly oppose ANYTHING that would bring this community out of the 1950's have not taken the time to actually walk through the present fire/police station. I'm not able to pay higher taxes - no more than anybody else. But seriously, this is a "need" not a "want".

-- Posted by Justin Case on Tue, May 18, 2010, at 5:54 PM

I guess with the top 1/2 of the work force leaving the area, we are faced with poor reading comprehension and little common sense. It make perfect sense to combine the city police force with the county police force, no more "its outside our jurisdiction" nonsense. Yes, our men and women in blue/brown can handle it, it's called police training. The same with the fire departments, all fires are controllable, again it's called training. Maybe in the past, they couldn't handle it, but today's safety personnel, they can.

If we must build a new safety center, by all means, build a Cadillac of a center, so that in a few years we're not facing a broken down Dodge of a building.

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Tue, May 18, 2010, at 9:09 PM

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