One Year After Tornado, New Clarks Grove Fire Station Plans Unveiled

March 12, 2018 01:33 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Just over a year ago, an EF-1 tornado ripped through the tiny Freeborn County town of Clarks Grove, damaging much of the city's downtown, including the fire station.

While much of the damage has been repaired, the fire station remains empty, but plans are underway to replace the building with a new station that's nearly twice the size.


Saturday, the city held a public meeting to gather feedback on the design of the building, which could cost up to $1.4 million.

"It's taken until now to come up with a plan and come up with funding and come up with what the insurance company was going to do," Mayor Bruce Hansen said.

Since the tornado hit, the fire department has been operating out of a makeshift location across town. Fire Chief Steven Thisius said he's glad they were able to find a temporary home in town that fit their needs, but the department is ready to move into a permanent home.

"The next day (after the tornado), Hillcrest Homes came and said they had this building available, so the next day we were moving our stuff out and into our temporary fire hall," Thisius recalled.

The city has been working with Brunton Architects out of Mankato to design the building, Hansen said. The firm came highly recommended from Freeborn County Emergency Management Director Rich Hall who has seen their work near his hometown and in the design process for Albert Lea's new fire station, he said.

The approximately 7,300 square-foot building will also have a public restroom for the adjacent park and meeting space that can also be used to hold city elections, Hansen said.

"It's kind of the main building in town, we don't have many other buildings to hold meetings or have things like that so we're kind of excited about getting it done," he said.

Deciding To Build New

Contractors estimated the cost to repair the existing fire station at a minimum of $531,000, with other bids coming in hundreds of thousands of dollars higher, Hansen said. That price tag, coupled with some of the accessibility issues that facility had, made the decision to build an entirely new building easier.

Another concern for Hansen was finding a way to build a new firehouse without going to taxpayers to ask for money. After insurance paid out a little more than $600,000 for the fire station and other city building repairs, the city kicked in some of its own money, he said. Combined with other funds from the state and other sources, the city won't have to increase taxes for the project.

The design of the new building also makes it easier to expand in the future if the department gets more trucks.

Thisius recalled some of the space constraints of the old station, including tight quarters near the trucks that made it impossible for one firefighter to walk past as another was putting on gear.

The new station will be, "more user-friendly for us, safer, more efficient," he said. "We're looking forward to getting back to 100 percent."

The city will now seek bids for the project, with construction taking place beginning in the summer. The department could be fully moved into the new station by the end of 2018.


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