The Vinton City Council learned at tonight’s meeting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has offered to fund a study of flood protection options for the Vinton Fire Station, and other “critical” community service facilities including the VMEU light plant, the North Benton Ambulance Service (which is in the Hinkle Creek flood plain) and even Vinton City Hall.
City Manager Chris Ward relayed to the council the conversations he has been having with FEMA officials. He told the council FEMA would pay for the study, and expected to have some preliminary findings about options as soon as September.
Ward explained that those options could include permanent flood walls, or building new facilities away from the flood plain.
Fire Chief Gary McKenna, when asked if he had a preferred location if FEMA does agree to fund a relocation, mentioned another Vinton landmark.
Telling the council that he was sharing his own personal opinion, and not speaking on behalf of the fire department, McKenna said he believed the property where the old Cafe 218 building is located would be a good place for a fire station, adding that removing the unsightly building could also help improve the appearance of that area of town. The fire chief said he believed that seeing the empty building in its current condition has influenced the decision of other business owners who decided not to come to Vinton.
A Highway 218 location would make for easier travel for fire trucks northwest or south out of town, McKenna said.
Firefighters spent countless hours volunteering to repair the fire station after the 2008 flood left more than three feet of water in the building. They also set up flood barriers during the last two city flood events, most recently last September.
In addition to the public facilities study, FEMA and the city are beginning work on a flood buyout of approximately nine properties that have been affected by recent floods.