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Plans for new firehouse are unveiled
In Boscobel
Boscobel and Rural Fire Department

BOSCOBEL - The public got its first view of Boscobel’s proposed firehouse last week.

Chief Hershel Marks and Assistant Chief Todd Fischer presented a floor plan to the fire district board at its meeting on April 26. The new structure would house both the fire department and emergency management services and features expanded bays with overhead doors on both sides to avoid reversing the big rigs into the bays.

The structure comes with a $10 million price tag, which the board hopes to cover with a combination of state grants and direct appropriations from the federal government.

The current firehouse, built in 1962, has been renovated twice, according to Fischer. He said the replacement is designed not only for the current department, but with an eye to the future.

“What’s the use going to be in 65 years?” he said. “When are we going to have a paid shift? When are there actually going to be people sleeping and living there? What we did was add some spaces that could then be converted later.”

No new taxes

Because Wisconsin’s municipal governments are funded largely by property taxes, money is tight. “Shared revenue,” which comes from the statewide sales tax, is a shrinking share of local budgets. While the state legislature is looking at various changes to improve rural funding, it’s unlikely to change drastically enough to pay for things like new firehouses.

“We can’t afford to do this on our own,” said Fischer. “We can’t go to our taxpayers and put this on their shoulders. They can’t afford it. They can’t do it. We can’t do it. We know that.”

Instead, members of the board and department have been meeting with state and federal elected officials in the hopes of lining up funding.

At its last meeting, the board voted to make an out-of-pocket payment of $10,000 to the Platteville engineering firm Delta 3, to develop the preliminary drawings—so the board could pitch the project to granting agencies and elected officials.

Among the grants and loan programs the district hopes to tap are Community Development Block Grant funds through the Housing and Urban Development program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

Neither of these programs will provide enough funding to cover the entire cost of the facility, however. The board hopes to cover the rest through federal appropriations, as well as private donations to its 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which is a separate entity from the more familiar fire department non-profit that collects donations for local events like the July 4 fireworks.

Federal “earmarks,” or direct payments to pet projects, come directly from elected officials during the federal budget process. Each official can request up to 10 earmarks, and they must write a defense of why it’s a good use of federal taxes. In the last budget cycle, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin earmarked $7 million for the Platteville fire station, which is currently under construction.

Land swap key

The proposal assumes that the land for the new station would be obtained in a land swap with the City of Boscobel: The city would take on the old department station in exchange for land near the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility and the industrial park.

Aldermen Steve Fritz (Ward 2) and Gary Kjos (Ward 1), who serve on the district board, were given the task of formally requesting the council take up the matter at an upcoming meeting.

“We’re going to need to work it out with the city for a swap, versus going on with a big land purchase cost,” Fischer told the board.

In recent years, the city has charged $12,000 an acre for vacant land in the industrial park.