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Grant will help Delmont build new fire hall

DELMONT -- It began with sausage. Firefighters from Delmont took advantage of Delmont Days at the capitol in Pierre the last two years. As they served their famous sausage supper to legislators and other state officials, they explained the crowded conditions in the fire hall and safety concerns.

Through help from former Reps. Frank Kloucek and Jim Putnam, along with other area legislators, the firefighters' plights were heard.

In June, the community received word the work paid off in the form of a $250,000 community development block grant from the state of South Dakota.

Delmont Fire Chief Elmer Goehring said firefighter safety is the main reason he and several others began the journey to secure a matching grant for a new fire hall. The grant will provide just more than half the funds needed to build a 100-foot by 60-foot building.

Twenty firefighters in one building may not seem like much, but add five fire rigs and it is a pretty tight space, Goehring said.

"We are so crowded in the fire hall that when we're putting bunker gear on, and we have trucks leaving, we're right next to the trucks," he said. "We can't even keep all our equipment in the building. The fire and rescue van is in the city shop across the street."

The current fire hall is 50 feet by 60 feet. Goehring said the department has two grass rigs, one brush truck, one tanker truck and one pumper, all stored in the building. The fire and rescue van is stocked with medical supplies for first responders and is stored across the street in the city shop.

The current fire hall only has two doors. Mike Redd, a firefighter and Delmont city councilman, said the new building will have four doors.

The building will cost about $500,000. The Delmont Fire District approved a $300,000 opt-out this year to pay for what the grant doesn't cover, said Kevin Hanten, firefighter and Delmont Fire Protection District board member.

An opt-out means a local government has made a decision to opt out of stateimposed limits on annual property tax increases. An opt-out allows local governments to collect more taxes per year than the state limits would otherwise allow.

The Delmont Fire Protection District will take out a loan, whether it be from a bank or through the state, to pay for its portion of the new fire hall, Hanten said. The district will then pay back the loan over a 10-year period, using the optout funds collected each year.

The district board chose a $300,000 opt-out in case a zero percent loan is not available and interest needs to be paid.

Proceeds from the annual firefighter's sausage supper will help the department purchase new gear or other equipment, Goehring said.

John Clem of Planning & Development District III helped the district secure the grant.

"The agreement won't actually be signed by the governor until some more paperwork is completed," Clem wrote in an email to The Daily Republic. "That should be done within the next couple of months. Construction of the fire hall won't occur until next year."

The new fire hall will be located just two blocks west of the current hall, Goehring said. Although no plans are in place yet, Goehring said it's possible the old fire hall will be used for storage.