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Groundbreaking signals new fire department era

A turn of a shovel removed a large weight from Fire Chief Al Duke’s shoulders at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new fire station Friday morning.

Since the $12.8 million public safety bond passed with a 68 percent yes vote in November, 2003, Duke has been sifting through files and making phone calls trying to get a $3.8 million construction project underway.

His sight has even diminished a little, he joked in his office earlier this week, while pointing to a ten inch pile of documents on his deck.

“It feels good to be coming along with the process, to actually see something now.”

Crews from the contracting company Shinstine and Associates were already digging footing trenches for the walls by the middle of last week.

On the large dirt plot at 911 Park Street, Mayor Cary Bozeman and Duke spoke June 25 about how creating a new fire station and moving out of the current premises on Pacific Avenue, built in 1930, signal a new rebirth for the city.

“I think it’s a long time coming,” said City Council member Brad Gehring, District 1. “Besides being part of the downtown redevelopment, its going to be centrally located in the community.”

Gehring said it should inspire neighbors in the area to take even more pride in their houses and yards, sprucing up the neighborhood.

“One thing you learn about the citizens of this city is they are prideful,” said Bozeman at the ceremony. “They overwhelming supported the chief and his men and women with a 68 percent bond vote.”

The bond — which is payed for through a property tax increase — includes $4.8 million for the remodel of the of the US Bank building into a new police station and municipal court as well. There is also about $829,000 for fire equipment upgrades and $250,000 for new patrol cars.

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