By Gail Leverson, MBA, EDFP - Funding Specialist June 26, 2019
We all know that if we need to dial 9-1-1, help will be on its way. Most of us don’t dwell on emergency response times—we assume it will be quick and efficient. As the City of Isle and the surrounding communities grew, the City found itself thinking more and more about the efficiency and response times of its public safety services.
Isle’s fire department covers roughly 412 square miles, which includes a population of approximately 5,000, more than 50 resorts and tourist destinations including Grand Casino Mille Lacs, and the entire Mille Lacs Reservation. The casino, alone, attracts more than 1,000 daily visitors. As the fire department grew—adding necessary equipment and staff—its early 1970s facility couldn’t keep up with mounting space demands. The department expanded into two additional buildings, and while this worked as a stopgap, the City recognized that consolidating into a single facility would improve the department’s efficiency, security, and safety of its staff and the public.
Funding takes a project from vision to completion, and the City of Isle knew they would need outside sources to fund the design and construction of a fire station that would accommodate all public safety services in one location. They sought help from Widseth’s funding specialists, who have helped other communities in similar predicaments and understood Isle’s commitment to protecting its service area, the City’s budget constraints, and the frustration of having a clear vision but lack of available finances. Widseth’s team identified potential funding sources that the City could pursue and provided support throughout the application process.
USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program
Provides affordable funding for rural communities to develop essential community facilities. The City of Isle received a $750,000 loan for the fire station project.
Otto Bremer Foundation
Provides funding for organizations working to provide for people’s basic needs and for projects that strengthen the community. Isle’s fire station project was the recipient of a $75,000 grant.
These resources helped the City of Isle reach the total needed to develop a new fire station. With access to a full complement of services, Widseth’s funding specialists seamlessly transitioned the project to the design team. Project architect Doug Archer brought together professionals from Widseth’s structural, mechanical, electrical and civil engineering, land survey, and environmental teams to help the City realize its vision for the fire department. The 9,200-square-foot structure includes 7,000 square feet of garage area for firefighting/rescue equipment, vehicles, and gear. The remaining 2,200 square feet are dedicated to offices, meeting/training room, restrooms with showers, and laundry/wash room.
The City’s successful pursuit of additional funds resulted in a new facility that improves the department’s efficiency, security, maintenance of equipment, and response times. The new facility also expands the department’s outreach efforts and is available to community organizations for events and meetings. Having a safe, secure, modern fire station better protects the community’s firefighters, who in turn can better serve the department’s large coverage area.