It has been a long and confusing road, at times, to get to this point. Fire department officials are pleased to be able to close the deal and secure the property for the department and community and avoid an uncertain future for the property.
Several years ago, when the United States Senate passed a proposal, which led the way to the land swap between SITLA and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the department’s Fire Station No. 1 on the Castleton Road was also impacted with that deal. Instead of making lease payments to SITLA the department would have been under the ownership of the BLM as it assumed more than 5,000 acres of land around Castle Valley and other parcels around southern Utah.
Not long afterward, word was received that the department’s parcel of land would not be part of the trade. The BLM apparently didn’t want the property because it was encumbered with a building, a lease and other factors that were undesirable for them. At the same time, SITLA didn’t want to own one little piece of property in the middle of BLM land.
Since neither party wanted ownership of the 2.5 acres, SITLA offered to sell the property to the fire department, but the department would have to bid on the land like anyone else. After the department offered fair market value for the land, it was placed on the market to allow the public to exceed the department’s bid for the land. There were no competing bids, probably because the encumbrance on the land, and the department was allowed to proceed with the purchase.
In the meantime, there was the issue of raising the funds to purchase the land and the obvious decision by the local fire commissioners was to approach the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board (CIB). The Grand County Council, who administers CIB grant requests in the county, placed the department on their highest priority because of our unique situation. The fire commissioners, Dave Vaughn, Bob Lippman and Ron Mengel began gathering evidence and letters of support to present to the board to bolster our request and need for a grant to buy the land.
In September, fire commissioner Dave Vaughn along with county council member Gene Ciarus and former council member Jerry McNeely approached the CIB during their monthly meeting in Salt Lake City to present their case. The chairman of the board asked his fellow board members to suspend the normal rules of procedures and asked for an immediate vote and the grant was unanimously approved.
The State School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration has approved the transaction and SITLA Resource Specialist Brian Torgerson announced the closing date and the need of a cashier’s check to finalize the purchase. Castle Valley Fire Commissioner Ron Mengel spent much of this week getting the necessary details completed and the commissioners will meet with Torgerson for the final closing.
The appraised value of the property is $62,500 and with the various closing fees including appraisal costs, cultural survey costs, processing fees, application fees and advertising fees, the cost to the fire department totaled $65,969.61. Speaking of the closing, Mengel stated that it “would be a day that will be welcomed and very good for our community in the years to come.”
The Castle Valley Fire Department began leasing the Castleton Road property during the summer of 1977, just after the department took possession of a state surplus military truck and began organizing as a fire department. The property was used originally to hold barbecues to raise money to begin construction of a firehouse. The volunteers eventually raised enough money to begin construction and slowly completed the building.
The building now houses the department’s office and training facilities and is home to three firefighting vehicles. Station No. 2 was completed in May 2003 and was also funded by a CIB grant. It is located on the Town Hall property and houses four fire trucks.