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The city of Beatrice is taking legal action to acquire the last piece of property needed to build a new fire station just south of downtown.

City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer said the city is pursing eminent domain to acquire the Scott Street property owned by Rhen Marshall, Inc.

“Ultimately, state statute gives us the authority to acquire real estate through the process of eminent domain or condemnation – they’re interchangeable – for public facilities,” he said. “In this case, the public facility would be for the new fire station. If negotiations are unable to come up with a number we can agree with, this is a route city has available to them.”

Tempelmeyer declined to say how much the city had offered to purchase the property for or what the owner was seeking.

He said three appraisers will be appointed to determine the value of the property in question and the court will issue a ruling of what the city can purchase the property for. The property owner can appeal the dollar amount, but not the sale itself.

“We feel we did everything we could to avoid this path, unfortunately this is where we’re at,” Tempelmeyer said. “We hope this is resolved and we can move forward with this project… We always hope to avoid this option. Nobody likes to go down this path.”

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A decision is expected to be reached in November, and Tempelmeyer said the change in events shouldn’t delay the project.

Tempelmeyer said he believes the last time the city used eminent domain to acquire property was around 40 years ago to build the wastewater treatment facility.

The current home of Beatrice Fire and Rescue is in the lower level of the city auditorium, where it was been located since 1965.

A lack of space was the driving factor in pursuing a new station that would move the department. For example, when the auditorium was first used as a fire station, there were five trucks in the garage area compared to 14 today.

The current fire station is around 6,000 square feet and the proposed new facility would be around 14,000 square feet. The project was estimated to cost $9 million, including property purchases.

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