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Voters approved a tax to build a fire station. What happens now?

November 10, 2018

A city sales tax will be implemented next year to build Beatrice’s new fire station.

More than 53 percent of voters supported the sales tax issue in the general election. After getting the go ahead from voters on Tuesday, the Beatrice City Council next has to adopt an ordinance increasing the city sales tax.

From there, City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer said the certified election results and a few other documents need to be sent to the Department of Revenue for review.

Tempelmeyer said the Department of Revenue has to have the proposal for 120 days before it goes into effect, in part to notify businesses of the upcoming change.

If the city does its part in preparing for the sales tax and gets the needed documents to the Department of Revenue by the end of this month, the increase would go into effect April 1.

If for some reason the city fails to provide the Department of Revenue with what it needs in November, the increase would be pushed to the next quarter.

The additional half-cent sales tax will generate around $1 million annually and be removed once the station is paid off or in 10 years.

The current city sales tax is 1.5 percent and will be raised to 2 percent, bringing the total sales tax to 7.5 percent.

While the city waits for the tax increase to go into effect, officials will try to answer one of the biggest questions surrounding the project: where will the fire station be built?

“The next step is to sit down with property owners to see if we can secure options on them,” Tempelmeyer said. “We may secure options on multiple sites before we decide which one to purchase. Meanwhile we’ll start working with architects on a final design. Some of that will be dictated by the site location we go with and then it will go out for bid.”

A handful of potential locations are being considered. It’s been stated at council meetings the department will likely be built downtown. The former Dempsters and Store Kraft sites are not potential locations for the new station.

“We’re looking at call volumes and where we need to be for response times,” he said. “The big question is do you want highway access or not? That leads to a couple different spots. We’re still looking and exploring at the general area we want to be in.”

If everything moves smoothly, construction on the new station could start as early as next fall.

A current lack of space has been the driving factor in pursuing a new station that would move Beatrice Fire and Rescue, as well as some Beatrice Rural Fire trucks housed at the station, out of the city auditorium and into a brand new facility.

The current fire station is around 6,000 square feet and the proposed new facility would be around 14,000 square feet and cost around $9 million, including purchasing property.

The city auditorium has been used as a fire station since 1965, when the department moved to the location as a temporary means.

At the time, there were five trucks in the garage area compared to 14 today.

Tempelmeyer said the auditorium will not sit empty. Public Properties and Beatrice Police have indicated there’s a need for vehicle storage, previously requesting a new building be built. It’s likely the auditorium will fill this need.

Tempelmeyer added that public input will remain a key component of the project moving forward.

“It’s their building and so we want their input and ideas,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons you may see us secure options on a couple different sites to get input on what’s best. Obviously, there’s some things fire experts know what they need as far as square feet and that kind of stuff.

“I’m very pleased with the citizens stepping up and understanding the need we have and willing to increase sales tax to get that facility built. I’m encouraged by the citizens’ response and look forward to putting that building into service for years to come.”

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