The Fort Atkinson City Council on Tuesday took the first step toward seeking $5.5 million in general obligation bonds to pay for renovating and expanding the fire station.
Local banks will be given the opportunity to bid on the project, which currently is in the design phase.
The city will need to start paying invoices for the work in the near future. To begin funding the project and to ultimately proceed with a negotiated sale of the general obligation bonds for the project, the council approved a note anticipation note (NAN).
Justin Fischer, senior vice president of Baird, the financial firm handling the project for the city, told the council that the note can be refinanced when it matures, and the estimated interest rate is 2.85 percent.
“The offering document will be sent out to the local banks,” he explained. “This is a little different than what the city has done in the past. I’m excited to include them and give them the opportunity. We’re also going to be sending it to the national banks as well to ensure a competitive process. We’re going to be sending that out to the banks come July 2.”
The city will receive funds as early as Aug. 6 to begin reimbursing costs to date and pay for future expenses.
Fischer noted that the city has a fairly substantial public works project on the table, which should be factored into any long-term financing plan.
“We need to start building that into the overall long-term plan,” he said. “Once that gets finalized, we’ll have a better idea and I’ll be back here presenting that detailed plan to you.”
Fischer said that combining the long-term bonds of the fire station project with other debt refinancing into one long-term debt issue could save Fort Atkinson about $90,000, based on current interest rates.
“There’s been a lot talk of the Feds cutting rates and so forth,” he said. “That plays well for communities that are looking to borrow for projects. We are seeing interest rates drop and I don’t anticipate them going up a substantial amount between now and the end of the year. I suspect that it could stay where it is or maybe go a little bit lower, so that bodes well for our timing.”
Through the years, general maintenance and upkeep of the city’s 41-year-old fire station — roof repair, replacement of garage doors, remodeling of bathrooms and the kitchen, and replacing the station’s antiquated generator — were moved into 2020 with the intention of completing a renovation as one big project.
Total construction time is estimated to be around 15 months, with an anticipated start time around March 1, 2020, through early 2021. The hope is for the project to be completed for a grand opening in the fall of 2021.
In January, the council unanimously approved a resolution to proceed with the project and declare that a long-term bond borrowing would pay for the renovated facility. The anticipated bond amount, including interest, is $8.25 million, which translates to an annual average debt service amount of $412,500 per year.
City Manager Matt Trebatoski said the project was planned to take place when the annual debt service amount for the general fund is set to decrease by approximately $300,000 in 2020, thus minimizing the impact on the tax levy.
Using the 2018 assessed value and holding all other things equal, the new debt from the project would increase the city tax rate by approximately 13 cents per $1,000 assessed value or approximately $26 per year on a property valued at $200,000.
The city manager pointed out that without the dip in the existing debt repayment schedule, the full effect of the fire station project would result in a much larger city tax-rate increase of approximately 47 cents per $1,000 assessed value or an estimated increase of $94 per year on a $200,000 property.
Also in January, the council approved having Keller Planners of Kaukauna complete the design and construction document preparation after the firm had been involved in completing the fire station’s feasibility study.
Further approval to have Keller take on the construction management role is anticipated at a future meeting following further negotiation about some details in the contract. Concerns had been raised about whether the city would get the best value for its dollar without bidding out these portions of the work.
The city’s 2019 capital improvement plan includes $250,000 for that process to get under way and is considered part of the overall $5.49 million project.
The design presented by Keller calls for expanding the station into the first row of the municipal parking lot adjacent to the station for construction of a two-story portion to accommodate the administrative functions and living quarters on the east end.
Moving the administrative services to the opposite end of the facility would provide an opportunity for the department to continue operating out of the facility during construction. Relocation costs have been estimated at $100,000 were a temporary fire station needed.
The new space would include expanded living quarters and a training room that accommodates all members of the department. The current building does not have a room that legally allows for all the members to be present.
To the west, the former administration section of the station would be demolished and three additional apparatus bays would be built to make room for four additional pieces of apparatus. One of the bays would be designed as a wash and maintenance site.
Combined, the renovated facility would measure approximately 20,210 square feet, nearly double the existing 11,000 square feet.
As presented, the goal is to build the expanded station with some capability to expand at least minimally. Currently designed storage space in the administrative section could be converted into additional living quarters.
The intention is to have a facility that will last a minimum of 40 years.
In other business, the council unanimously approved spending $142,000 to improve six pedestrian crossing improvements throughout the city.
The crossing on Janesville Avenue at Jones Park, in particular, will come before the council for separate approval due to the complicated nature of the various solutions being investigated.
City engineer Andy Selle noted the intersection is challenging because four lanes of traffic must stop for pedestrians. A traditional flashing beacon has been deemed insufficient, so a pedestrian-activated stop light, referred to as the “Hawk System,” is being considered.
“The main thing is we don’t want to create an attractive nuisance that’s unsafe,” Selle noted with regard to the various options, some of which are more or less appealing than others from an aesthetic and practical standpoint. “This is an intersection we’re thinking heavily about.”