Over 70 years ago, Walthill (pop. 769) built its first fire station. After all those years, a building can go through quite a bit of wear and tear, and its uses can be outdated. This was the situation for the town of Walthill and their fire department. The fire and rescue buildings were no longer able to provide functionality. The village was in need of a new station.
There were numerous problems with the old fire station. One main drawback was that the old station did not have enough room for parking the vehicles, which included two rescue units, three grass rigs, two pumpers, and one tanker. To fit in the building, all vehicles were parked at angles making it nearly impossible to quickly exit during emergency calls. Also, because there was no insulation in the building, there was a $700 monthly gas bill to pay during winter. Mold in the building permeated the firefighters’ gear so a dehumidifier operated nonstop during most of the summer to keep moisture levels tolerable.
The town came together in support of the new fire station. Various donations and fundraising activities occurred throughout the community. A $100,000 donation was made by a local family in honor of their father. The CharterWest Bank of Walthill committed $50,000 to the project.
The local fire department held a chili feed, and developed a brochure describing the project. Walthill Public School worked with the village and held a fair housing poster contest for the new station. A fundraising thermometer was provided by the bank, which influenced and encouraged a lot of the larger donations. Total local donations reached $183,904. The Village was also awarded $350,000 CDBG funding from DED in October 2012. With a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan, the fundraising was complete and construction began on the new fire station in May 2013.
The new building, completed December 2013, finally offered the space and amenities that had been lacking for many years. The new station featured two drive through doors, and houses all of the fire-fighting vehicles, including two rescue squads. A new meeting/activity room holds a maximum of 90 people—nearly three times the previous capacity of 35. The kitchen area offers valuable storage space. The new hall is handicapped accessible in accordance with the American with Disabilities Act, has a fully-wired sprinkler system, and is energy efficient from its special roof to the large ceiling fans and radiant heat in the bays.
The firemen relocated to the new fire station in January 2015. Slight adjustments were made as the firemen settled into their new surroundings. The building’s dual purpose as a community meeting area has been used time and again. The new station has become an important hub of activity and safety for the town.
In addition to developing public facilities such as libraries, fire stations, and community centers, the CDBG Public Works category also provides funding to help communities with infrastructure projects such as street improvements and storm sewers. Over the past five years, $8.5 million of CDBG funding was granted to 35 projects throughout Nebraska. Of these 35 projects, 30 projects focused on improving the infrastructure within the community. Wilcox, Phillips, South Sioux City and Taylor are just a few communities that received CDBG funding.