Birdseye to offer two-fer fire station hearing


BIRDSEYE — A meeting next week dedicated to the Birdseye fire station will be a two-fer.

The night will begin with one public hearing reviewing the findings of a feasibility study and progress directly to a second public hearing on a proposal to apply for a construction grant. The whole thing should not take more than an hour.

The Town of Birdseye hopes as many as 100 people can turn out for the event set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Birdseye Fire Station, 9 W. First St.

The current fire station next to the town’s railroad tracks dates to the 1960s. It was remodeled in 1990 but the department has outgrown it and it is showing its age and limitations.

The Birdseye Volunteer Fire Department would be hard pressed to find any modern new fire truck that could fit inside the current station. When members of other departments come for joint training, Fire Chief David “Smitty” Smith must tell firefighters to pull trucks outside to make room, impeding traffic on First Street.

Years of talking about options culminated two years ago in a confidential income survey being mailed to everyone in the Birdseye fire department’s coverage area that stretches from Mentor to the Crawford County line and south to I-64. It established that the fire department services a low- to moderate-income area, which allowed Birdseye to get a planning grant and now possibly try for a construction grant.

Birdseye landed the $20,000 planning grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs one year ago. With it, the town hired Universal Design Associates to conduct a feasibility study that examined multiple fire station sites and will now provide a preliminary fire station design.

Universal Design will reportedly recommend Birdseye build a new fire station on a large, town-owned open lot where an old elementary school and gymnasium once stood. Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission Senior Project Administrator Nathan Held shared that tidbit when he came to Thursday evening’s meeting of the Birdseye Town Council to review the town’s OCRA projects.

Held said Universal Design will be at the hearing to go over the study findings and answer any questions. The portion of Wednesday’s hearing should be followed by a resolution approving the study and starting the close-out process.

Birdseye will then be free and clear to apply to OCRA for a maximum $500,000 construction grant. The application would be due June 28 and Wednesday’s hearing is one of the requirements.

What appears to be the preferred site for a new fire station is a large, town-owned open lot where an old elementary school and gymnasium once stood. That 1.8 acres is south of West Third Street, across from Jake’s Auto Parts & Service.

Held said Universal Design’s recommendation will be a $719,000 fire station. If Birdseye lands a $500,000 grant, that would leave a $219,000 local match for the fire department to cover.

Held said a good turnout at next week’s hearing “would go a long way toward showing OCRA there is community support and there is a need.”

During Thursday’s meeting, members of the Birdseye Town Council also:

• Accepted conflict-of-interest statements from President Bret Eckert and Councilman Roy Partenheimer. They allow for Eckert to be a non-voting member of the park board and for Partenheimer, a member of the fire department, to continue to serve, although he will not vote on business involving the fire department.

• Invited anyone interested in mowing the Town Hall property at 103 W. State Road 64 to contact the office at 812-389-2419 or stop by with a quote.

• Received an itemized quote for a major culvert repair at the wastewater lagoon site south of town from Mike Huddleston, English. The $12,000 total includes a 96-inch steel culvert costing $5,260, a $380 steel connection band to join the new pipe to others still in place and $3,060 for other material like gravel, rip-rap and concrete. Huddleston, who is also the head of English’s water utility and who is under retainer by Birdseye for some certified water testing and reporting, had told the town in November he would do the work for a cost not to exceed $12,000.

• Tabled suggested updates to the town’s park board ordinance submitted by Councilwoman Mary Ann Cummings. She suggested language updating sections on the park board’s composition, its members’ terms and its officers.

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