Star Valley council members and staff could one day be rubbing elbows with Payson and Hellsgate firefighters if a 3,700-square-foot mega center that combines the fire departments with town hall becomes a reality.
Hellsgate Fire Chief Gary Hatch presented a rough overview of the two-story structure at a Tuesday night work-study session in Star Valley.
Hatch along with Payson is applying for a federal grant to build a new fire station that would combine the two fire departments under one roof. The new station would allow Hellsgate to expand outside their current station, which they outgrew six years ago, and give Payson shorter response times to residents living in the east end of town. The town of Star Valley was brought into the mix because the town needs to find a permanent town hall. Its current location on Highway 260 next to Star Vale is rented and does not include a space to hold town hall meetings.
“We need to look at what we are going to do about a town hall on a long-term basis,” said Town Manager Tim Grier to council members.
Hatch attended the work-study session to see if Star Valley was interested in contributing funds to the mega structure and having a permanent place to call home.
“We don’t know if the grant will permit us to bring you in,” Hatch said. “The current grant is to provide fire services to two towns, and we meet the requirements to do that with the current location, we want to see if you’re interested.”
Hatch is proposing a 3,700-square-foot two-story building that would put the truck bays on one floor and the administration offices on the other.
The space would include a 1,200-square-foot meeting room where Star Valley could hold town meetings and where the fire department would hold training sessions. The room would have an attached kitchen.
“We have designed it to accommodate growth for the next 20 years,” Hatch said.
Hellsgate is in the process of buying the 3.11-acre piece of land on the west side of Valley Road. Currently the site is a mountain of earth, and a contractor would have to dig down 25 feet to level the lot for the building and parking.
Council members expressed concern that Valley Road is not wide enough to handle an increased level of traffic. Hatch said they are including an expansion of Valley Road and possibly raising it four feet in the grant request.
Grier asked Hatch if it would be possible to expand the building to 5,000 square feet, which would better accommodate the town’s staff. Hatch said to do that, they would have to add another level to the building because the lot is not big enough to expand horizontally.
To raise the building another level, the town would need to contribute $500,000 to the project.
Payson is reportedly contributing $1.5 million to the project through a bond, and Hellsgate $500,000, while the federal government would provide $2 million under the 50/50 grant.
“We still need an engineer, so the cost estimates are all pie in the sky,” Hatch said. “I am not trying to build the Taj Mahal, so if we can build it for $2 million, that would be great.”
Mayor Chuck Heron asked Hatch what the chances are Hellsgate would receive the grant.
“On the 50/50 grant there is a 90-percent chance of getting that,” Hatch said. “If we got the grant, we would have to have money ready in 120 days after receiving the grant.”
If Hellsgate does not receive the federal grant, Hatch said the department still plans to purchase the land for $350,000 using money raised from fighting wildland fires.
Star Valley had the opportunity to purchase the same piece of land, for the same price, but decided against it due to expenses.
In August, former Town Manager Vito Tedeschi proposed the town buy the 3.1-acre vacant lot and build a town hall, court, police station, building department and council chambers on site.
The new station would improve call times for the Hellsgate Fire Department. Hatch said moving from its current location on Walters Lane to Valley Road would decrease response times to the center and east end of Star Valley by 15 seconds. Into Payson and Chaparral Pines, times would be cut one minute. The only increase would be to lower Star Valley with 30 seconds.
The council took no action on the item because it was presented at a work-study session, but the council could vote on the item at an upcoming meeting.