The City of Chubbuck plans to request $9 million in federal grant funding to help build and equip a second fire station.
Chubbuck Fire Chief Merlin Miller is writing a letter to Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, explaining the need for the project, hoping Simpson will include the fire station in his list of Idaho priorities for federal dollars.
There are currently trillions in federal stimulus funds up for grabs as the nation seeks to boost an economy hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and to rebuild aging infrastructure from coast to coast. Communities throughout the country are now carefully reviewing projects long relegated to wish lists, hoping to get their share.
The city intends to start a remodel of its police station in July or August, and adding an additional fire station will be a top priority once the police station is complete, according to Mayor Kevin England. If the city succeeds in landing federal grant revenue, it might still need to provide a local match, England said.
England believes the city could actually use two more fire stations to keep pace with anticipated growth.
“This is something we’ve been talking about for decades,” England said.
Miller said 19% of the fire department’s calls overlapped with other calls last year.
“We’re trying to alleviate those overlapping calls, as well as have another station on the east side of the tracks,” Miller said.
Miller said Chubbuck would have to add more staffing for the new station.
The city’s population has grown to more than 16,000.
“Every day it becomes more evident that we need it,” Miller said. “The options are federal funding or a bond and see if the taxpayers want to fund it. ... The reality is the call volume doesn’t go away.”
According to the Idaho Department of Financial Management, the state is poised to receive $1.188 billion from the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus plan, called the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Furthermore, Idaho counties will receive a combined $347 million, cities with populations of at least 50,000 will receive a combined $125 million and smaller non-entitlement cities will receive a combined $104 million, according to the department.
Kelly Packer, executive director of the Association of Idaho Cities, explained the American Rescue Plan funding is intended to help communities with pandemic-related expenses.
Many rural communities plan to use the funding to upgrade broadband service to public buildings, thereby helping them to host public meetings accessible by remote viewers, Packer said. She said other communities will use the funds to cover one-time capital needs.
“The one thing I’ve been telling cities when they reach out to me is to start thinking about best uses but not commit to anything until we have treasury guidance,” Packer said. “We need to make sure (a project) fits the requirements.”
Officials with Bannock County have seen preliminary estimates from the National Association of Counties that they’ll receive $17 million from the American Rescue Plan. County officials say they plan to discuss their options within the next week or two.
Pocatello hasn’t discussed how it will invest its American Rescue Plan funds yet and isn’t certain how much it will receive, according to the city’s public works director, Jeff Mansfield.
However, the City Council recently approved funding toward local matches for a pair of major infrastructure projects, hoping to increase the city’s odds of securing possible funding from a separate $2 trillion federal infrastructure and jobs package. One project would involve a $4.9 million overhaul of the Center Street Underpass. The other project would be a $3.7 million project to add a traffic signal at the intersection of Hawthorne and Quinn roads and a widening of the lanes.