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New St. Peter firehouse waits on legislation to move project forward

Updated: Apr. 6, 2021 at 10:34 PM CDT
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ST. PETER, Minn. (KEYC) — The city of St. Peter has wanted to build a new firehouse for over five years.

Fire Chief Matt Ulman said the reason is a lack of space in the current facility.

“Now we have everything in the equipment bay. We don’t actually have a, say a wash bay or anywhere to clean our gear separately and keep it clean. All the trucks are packed in tight,” he said.

Ulman said there’s also not enough room for training.

“We’ve been hosting at Johnson Hall on the fairgrounds. They’ve been gracious enough to let us use their building because we don’t have the space here for all of us here to be what the CDC was asking us to be for trainings and for our meetings,” said Ulman.

But the effort to build a new location is in limbo as the city waits for legislative approval on two items that would move the project forward.

That’s because, according to City Administrator Todd Prafke, the city wants voters to decide how to pay for it.

“Do they want to do sales tax where other people help contribute to some of those costs or do they want it all to go on property taxes?” Prafke said.

The city needs legislative approval to put the item on the ballot this upcoming fall.

The city estimates based on 2019 data that if voters approve, half a cent sales tax would pay for two thirds of the $9 million project.

The rest of the money would then come from property tax.

The other item awaiting approval is a sales tax exemption for the materials needed to build the new fire hall.

The city has tried to get the green light from lawmakers in the past, but the pandemic put a lot of sales tax requests on hold.

Amid planning, the city also had to adjust to a sales tax rule change.

“The rule, the statute for this was that you had a local vote first and then had to seek approval from the state legislature. In mid-process the state changed the rules, and so now it requires state approval before you have a local vote,” Prafke said.

Prafke said things are moving along.

“They have been carried forward to what will at some point be an omnibus tax bill. So after that, right, there are a lot of things that can go on,” he said.

Ulman said that if lawmakers approve the two items, the city hopes to start building the new firehouse in the spring of 2022.

“Hopefully they would pass this legislation, because it really does affect our community in a big way,” Ulman said.

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