Hardin Fire Protection Board at odds with city

Hardin City Council and the Hardin Fire Protection Board are at odds with the construction of the city’s new fire station. According to the Public Works Director Larry Eastley, the fire board has not obtained a building permit and recently poured walls not at the required height in a State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) floodplain area.
Eastley said he and the fire board had a “gentlemen’s agreement” that five-foot concrete walls were required to comply with Base Flood Elevation for new construction in flood-prone areas, like Hardin. Roughly, two-foot walls have been poured and formed. City Aldermen and Eastley said in the Nov. 17 council meeting, they are very concerned the SEMA violation would put residents’ flood insurance in jeopardy.
“They’re placing the entire citizens at risk, and anyone who has a federally-insured insurance. They don’t understand that the city could lose their flood insurance,” Eastley told the council.
Eastley cited the town of Fort Smith, Ark. as an example. The community was placed on probation by FEMA in 2004. According to a 2003 FEMA press release, property owners and renters were penalized with a $50 surcharge on their NFIP flood insurance premiums. FEMA threatened if the town did not remedy violations, the agency would yank the NFIP flood insurance program. FEMA also noted that any suspended community would not be eligible for grants and loans.
Eastley said that he negotiated with SEMA Floodplain Management Officer Dale Schmutzler to have the fire station built. Eastley said Schmutzler agreed to the construction, as long as it was built at the 695.5 level – or five foot above ground level.
Eastley said he attended the Nov. 13 fire protection board meeting where discussions on compliance “disintegrated.” He told the council a board member threatened him by saying, “if this get ugly, you’ve got to leave town.”
Eastley asked the council for guidance on the situation, and the aldermen said they would support him in his duties.
“Why didn’t they come and get a building permit? It’s a deliberate attempt to tell us ‘we’re going to do what we want to do.’ I’d do a cease and desist if I need to,” Eastley said.
The aldermen and Mayor Bob McCorkendale instructed City Clerk Patty Lam to write a letter to the Hardin Fire Protection Board instructing them to get a building permit and comply with SEMA.
“They still do not have a legal building permit. Seems to me the conversation is over then,” said Mayor McCorkendale.
In other business:
• Discussions continued on the cost and implementation of Hardin hooking into PWSD #2 rural water. Eastley said he received bids on hook-up costs at $9,000. The total cost to convert would be an estimated $13,000. Mayor McCorkendale told aldermen the city should contact the city of Orrick to see who they worked with at DNR. McCorkendale said the city would look into grant money from the state for the conversion.
• Hardin Police Chief and Ray County Deputy Rich Meyers said the police department purchased a laptop computer with warranty for $4,000. The police department was also investigating numerous incident reports on pumpkin vandalism during Halloween weekend. Meyers told the council that he and Ray County Deputy Brian Bush spoke to third and fifth grade students about bicycle, skateboard and scooter safety along J Highway. On Nov. 26, Hardin police, along, with Henrietta and the Ray County Sheriffs Department, will participate in the seat belt check program. They will stop cars, and if the driver isn’t wearing a seat belt, they will be fined $10.
• The debate for an RV park in the city limits of Hardin has now gone to the attorneys. Jason Raasch, who is initiating the RV park, said he has hired an attorney in his fight. The aldermen contend that city ordinances do not allow for one common water or sewer dumping system, and that each of his 10 proposed RV slots would be required to have separate utilities. They are also seeking a detailed engineer’s report on the proposed site.
• The council approved Kirk Thacker’s request for a variance on a 20-foot-by-34-foot garage on his residence. The variance must adhere to the basic flood elevation and square footage guidelines, the council noted.
• The council tabled the purchase of a new salt spreader for the road department.
• A $2.09 a gallon propane bid from Ray-Carroll was unanimously accepted by the council.
The Hardin City Council will have a special meeting on Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. Tentative items on the agenda are amending the city ordinance on sewer line specifications and city hall bids for repair of the building.

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