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New Brooklyn Public Safety Building on the front burner

Brooklyn residents might see a new public safety building as early as next summer according to Brooklyn Mayor Loren Rickard.

At the Brooklyn City Council meeting held on July 20, members of the council approved the mayor to sign a real estate contract to buy block five in the William Manatt’s first edition located at 400 East Pershing for the site of the new Brooklyn Public Safety Building.

The City of Brooklyn, the East Poweshiek County Ambulance Service and the Brooklyn Fire Volunteer Fire Department have been looking for land to potentially build a new public safety building since 2002, said Traci Smith of the East Poweshiek County Ambulance Service.

“The need was there (for a new building) so we have been looking around for several years for land to use,” she said.

“We’ve been meeting more regularly in recent months to really try to find a suitable piece of land.”

The recent push for the land purchase came in the form of the I-JOBS Grant through Iowa’s Infrastructure Investment Initiative. The state grant is part of a fast-moving stimulus plan to create Iowa jobs.

Projects eligible for the grant include:

reconstruction and replacement of local public buildings; flood control, prevention and protection; and city, county and non-profit projects. Approximately $118.5 million is available for groups who apply.

Projects are reviewed on a point basis. Minimum expectations include: some job creation; secured site; hire an architect, especially one that is familiar with the LEED process; develop a project construction budget; determine local match sources; and consider including a FEMA-compliant safe room.

“The opportunity for the I-JOBS grant really brought this project ahead,” said Perry Wehrle, a member of the building project. “The deadline for the application is Aug. 3 and we needed to already have land secured for the new building befor

we can apply.”

 According to Rickard, if the City of Brooklyn is awarded the I-JOBS grant, it would cover up to 50 percent of the total cost for the new building. The public safety building is projected to cost about $1,147,000. The remaining 50 percent would come with a commitment of the Local Option Sales Tax funds and public donations.

“We will come to the community for financial support and donations,” said Rickard. “The I-JOBS grant isn’t going to get us all the money for the new building, so we’re hoping the community will come together for the much-needed building.”

Rickard said the building could be completed by as early as the summer of 2010.

“We are expected to have 10 percent of the grant money spent within the first six months,” said Rickard. “So, hopefully, weather permitting, it could be complete around this time next year.”

The most important reason for a new public safety building is to house all emergency service departments in one building.

“Right now, everything is scattered around town. We don’t have a consolidated facility so we can’t coordinate our activities,” said Smith.

The current fire department building was constructed in 1956. Until 1996, ambulance services shared the space.

“There just isn’t enough space for all the new equipment we get. All the new things are getting bigger,” said Smith. The fire building houses six fire trucks and the antique Studebaker fire truck and East Poweshiek County Ambulance Service houses two ambulances. The new public safety building will be 11,352 sq. feet, giving plenty of room to store equipment and include a washbay.

Smith said the biggest benefit is the space that can be used for emergency training classes.

“There’s no place to do CPR, first aid or EMT/First responders training,” she said. “Right now we meet in an old

basement that isn’t very conducive to learning.”

The steel frame and brick building will have a classroom with space for 50 people to hold training sessions and classes. Wehrle said the training room will be beneficial county-wide.

“Instead of each county paying for the same class on different occasions, we can all meet in the new building and split the cost,” he said. The building will also include a tornado/disaster-safe room that would act like command central in the event of a disaster.

Several emergency service volunteers live outside the Brooklyn community, so bunkrooms have been added to the building plans.

Rickard said the building will be energy efficient and LEED certified. He said the plans include geothermal heating and cooling systems, highly insulated walls and ceilings and energy efficient windows and doors.

Some may argue, though,  that it would be easier to renovate and expand the fire department building, which Wehrle said the departments had discussed.  “One of the main problems is both buildings now are landlocked,” he said.

“There’s no where we can expand on those sites. With this new site we just bought, we have the room to expand if we need to in the future. Also, to apply for the grant, the building must be energy efficient, which the current buildings are not.”

Rickard also brought up the fact that the new public safety building site is located in a residential area, which brings up concerns about traffic and noise.

“We looked at several other options, but there were several obstacles in our way,” said Rickard. “One potential site was in a flood plain area, another didn’t have room for expansion. We looked at the pros and the cons of the new site, but the pros definitely outweighed the cons.”

Smith said the departments thought long and hard about the new facility’s location, and they determined the streets and traffic will still be safe.

As for the noise, Wehrle said residents don’t have to worry about the sirens going off in the middle of the night.

“We’re not going to use our sirens at one in the morning, we’ll use our common sense. We don’t do that now, anyways,” he said. “We know these people are our friends and neighbors and we don’t want to disturb them. We’ll take each call in perspective.”

Wehrle said the location works well logistically.

“From the ambulance standpoint, we try to look at demographics. We serve the town, nursing home, interstate, rural areas and the lake,” he said. “From the new building, we have an equal split to all those areas. We can easily get to each place without causing a lot of traffic congestion. It really is a win-win situation.”

Rickard agrees the latest steps toward the completion of the new public safety building will benefit the community as a whole.

“Regardless if we receive the grant money or not, this is a big step forward because we now have a location secured for the building. It just means we’re that much closer to having one facility for those who help our community.” Said Rickard.

UPDATED July 28, 2009 1:04 PM

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