ASHLAND – An area that trained many a cowboy in its day could soon be training firefighters.
During its meeting last Thursday at the Ashland Public Library, the Ashland City Council heard a proposal from representatives of the Ashland Volunteer Fire Department to place a training center at the former rodeo grounds. The property is owned by the city and is located between Jack Anderson Ball Park and the city’s wastewater treatment facility.
AVFD Lt. Dalton Smith is heading up the initiative to build a fire training center somewhere in Ashland. The facility would be constructed from used shipping containers stacked on top of one another. Firefighters could use the structure to train on aerial ladders, hose/nozzle, automobile extrication, live fire attack and several other skills.
In April, department representatives requested to build the training center near the dog pound. However, officials with the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District nixed that plan, Mayor Rick Grauerholz said.
Since then, Smith and other members of the fire department have been working with City Building and Zoning Administrator Bill Krejci to find another location.
Smith did not indicate exactly how much property they will need for the structure, but said the department would like enough land so they could add on in the future. The firefighters are also considering purchasing a small used grain bin that would be located at the training facility. It would be used for grain bin extrication training, but they would replace the grain with a non-organic substance to eliminate storage issues, Smith said.
Krejci said the area they are now looking at has some issues. It is located in the floodway, which is defined by the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources as an area where significant flooding can occur. Structures are generally not allowed to be built in a floodway because they could redistribute the flow of floodwaters or increase the flood level.
The training center would also have to be built in such a way that it would not float away and damage other buildings or structures.
“The biggest thing is to make sure it doesn’t shift, float away or cause any issues,” he said.
In some circumstances, structures are built after the ground is raised by several feet to lift the building out of the floodway. However, that isn’t an option in this case because it would add to the cost of the project, Krejci added.
“There’s some things we’re going to have to work through,” Krejci said.
City council members agreed that the facility would be a benefit to the fire department and the community.
“This is an important structure,” said Council Member Jim Anderson.
The council also indicated that the proposed location could work out well if the floodway issues are figured out.
“I can’t see any reason to not have it down there,” said Council Member Jake Crnkovich. “It’s the perfect place for it.”
City Administrator Jessica Quady informed the council that the city engineer, JEO Consulting Group, has volunteered to work with the fire department on the project.
The council passed a motion to approve the location for the training facility, on the condition that the specific location and compliance to floodway regulations are approved by Krejci.