Fire museum center of attention: Windsor-Severance Fire Board votes 4-1 to try and secure grant
July 24, 2008
If the moon, the sun and the stars all align at the right time, along the same latitude and longitude lines, on the same day and in the same month, the fire museum will be relocated.
In simpler terms, if the Windsor-Severance Fire Protection District can secure a Department of Local Affairs grant for slightly less than $200,000, the museum will have a new home along 6th Street.
If not, then it’s up to the Windsor Town Board to decide if it is willing to pony up $184,000 to make the move work.
The decision was reached Wednesday during a special joint meeting between the Town Board and the Fire Board.
“I think we can chase $184,000. We have a good chance to receive that,” said Mayor John Vazquez. “Then the town and the taxpayers are not affected because DOLA is backfilling. The other costs are cost the Town would incur otherwise. At the end of the day, donors will be whole again. The taxpayers are not paying for it with their money, and the Town has no additional expenses. We’re just shuffling around the expenses we would incur anyway.”
The fire district, behind fire marshal Mike Davis, originally raised $451,231 to build a museum in honor of Windsor’s firefighters. The past Town Board gave the district the OK to build that museum at the entrance to Boardwalk Park off 5th Street.
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It was nearing completion when the tornado on May 22 ripped through Windsor.
After the tornado destroyed the museum, many residents began to express their desire to move the museum out of the entrance to the park.
“There is nothing more inviting than the lake,” said Windsor resident Jim Campbell at one of two public forums. “To me, the crown jewel should be the lake and not the museum.”
Windsor resident Carolyn Figal, who offered to help fundraise for the project, agreed.
“It needs to be moved because I like the openness of the lake, and I agree we need to have a different look,” said Figal.
The problem with moving the museum is it will cost $164,744 more than insurance has paid on the old building. In addition, the new location will require another $20,000 for a parking lot. Another $73,725 is needed in park development costs. However, that amount has been on the books in the park’s master plan. If the museum is moved, it will just be expensed earlier than planned.
The Fire Board will not use any of its funds to make up the difference. But town manager Kelly Arnold said DOLA has available grants funded through mineral rights. The tornado gives Windsor a leg up on the competition.
“We have the attention of the state right now because of our current situation,” Arnold said. “It’s more readily available to us now than it would otherwise be.”
The Fire Board voted 4-1 to apply for the grant, with Del Maxfield the dissenting vote.
“I think this is irresponsible,” Maxfield said. “It’s a slap in the face to those who lost everything in the tornado. To me it’s a waste of time. To have a fundraiser for a quarter of a million dollars after what this town has been through is absurd.”
One of the fire district’s concerns is the bid from Dohn Construction, the contractor for the project, is only guaranteed for five months. A decision on the DOLA grant could take 60 days. The fire district wants assurances they won’t lose their bid chasing a risky grant process.
Vazquez assured Maxfield it was not his intentions to put anyone though any fundraising efforts, only to find other possible funding mechanisms to save taxpayers’ money.
“Fundraising is only an option,” Vazquez said. “We are only trying to do what we can to give our citizens what they are asking for. We are trying to respect the concerns, opinions and desires of this community.”
Town Board member Robert Bishop-Cotner agreed, citing his father was a firefighter in Windsor, and he would not be able to rest at night if he didn’t make the fire district whole.
“My father would kick my gluteus maximus if we let you sit out to dry,” Bishop-Cotner said. “I am a person of action. I am a person of my word. I will die trying. You will have your museum. It’s only a matter of where we put it and how.”
For now, plans are to relocate the museum to 6th Street, barring any problems with the grant. If the grant falls through, the Town Board will decide if it wants to fund the additional $184,000. If not, it will clear the way for the fire district to rebuild in its original location.
“I think this is a good compromise. We don’t have to make that decision tonight,” said Vazquez of whether the Town Board should fund the $184,000 if the grant falls through. “When you have 18,000 people in a town and only hear from 300, it’s very difficult to feel comfortable about making a decision. But that’s what you have to do sometimes.”