A referendum in Nerstrand to fund construction of a new $200,000 fire hall passed by 11 votes Tuesday.
It sounds like a tight margin, and is fairly close, but it’s mostly down to the low number of total voters in the city. In the end, 82 voters said “Yes” and 71 voters said “No.”
At the Aug. 15 Nerstrand City Council meeting, the council voted unanimously to put a referendum on the ballot, asking voters if they’re OK with bonding for $200,000 to pay for the new fire hall. Generally, a city can sell bonds without holding an election, but the referendum became necessary when more than 5 percent of the city’s voting residents (about 10 people) signed a petition to put it on the ballot.
The department, which has 19 firefighters and seven fire trucks, currently uses two buildings on either side of Nerstrand City Hall. The east hall, originally built in 1960, is about 1,600 square feet, and the west hall, built in 1978, is about 3,000 square feet.
Neither building was constructed as a fire house. They’ve both been renovated to suit some of the department’s needs, mostly storage of the trucks. But neither space has running water, bathrooms or room for training.
The city’s proposal is to utilize donated land to replace the east hall with a new 6,000 square-foot building that leaders believe can be built for $200,000.
Nerstrand Meats & Catering, owned by Mary Heggedahl, is next to the proposed-to-be-replaced east hall. Heggedahl is running the business after her husband of 55 years, Clyde, and her son, Jeff, both died unexpectedly in 2016. She wants to fulfill a long-time dream of Clyde’s to bring a coffee shop gathering place back to town.
She hopes to take over the current east hall and convert it into a coffee, ice cream and sandwich shop. She would have it open during the days and also make it available for special community events. It would be a $150,000 investment on her part.
Issuing $200,000 in bonds is expected to add about $123 per year to the taxes on a $150,000 Nerstrand residential property.