Mapleton officials want to sell fire station
Janice Peterson - Daily Herald
The Mapleton City Council may soon sell one of the city's sentimental landmarks, but some longtime residents hope the council will reconsider in order to preserve the city's history. Mayor Laurel Brady said the city's volunteer fire station has become a financial burden on the city. The building caught fire years ago and was never repaired, and the building is not earthquake safe -- though it continues to house fire trucks and volunteers. Brady said the city has received offers to buy the building and has decided to sell, despite its history.

"There is a lot of emotional attachment to that building, and with good reason," she said.

According to a city newsletter, the fire trucks are now housed in the former city building, which was built in the 1950s by volunteer labor and fundraising. Volunteer farming was done to raise money for the building and materials were often donated, Brady wrote in the newsletter. The community's attachment to the building and its history makes the decision to sell it difficult, but still one of the only options, she said.

"We've looked into renovating it, and financially it doesn't make sense," Brady said.

While some funds are often available for salvaging historic buildings, Brady said the fire station holds little historic value to the public outside of Mapleton. The building is not architecturally unique and has little historic significance to the public as a whole.

"This has great emotional significance, but little historical value," she said.

Some of the city's residents, however, believe the ramifications of tearing down the fire station will be far-reaching. Genevieve Whiting moved to Mapleton in 1930, when she was just nine years old. Since then, she said she has noticed many of the town's original structures disappearing, like an old opera house that had several different functions through the decades.

"The people who are moving in here, they see the old buildings and they feel like they need to be taken down," she said.

Whiting said she understands that the building would not be safe in the event of an earthquake. She was also on the city council in the 1990s when the decision was made to tear down the opera house. However, she said museums and old architecture should be preserved in order to tell the history of the city.

"The one thing that would attract me to go to Europe is that so many old buildings have been saved on that continent," she said.

Whiting said she has become more aware of the history of the town since she began working at the Mapleton Heritage Museum. The best way for other residents to understand what is going on is to attend public meetings and discuss their opinions, she said.

"I think the community has to be included," she said. "They need to know what is happening, or what could happen, to these old, old buildings."

City Councilman Brian Wall said whether residents want to keep the building or sell it, they need to get involved in the process. The fire station may not be a true landmark, but there are still many residents who feel older buildings in the city have sentimental value.

"I consider them landmarks," he said.

Wall said the building could be a great location for another museum if it is remodeled. However, he said the council also has a heightened awareness of the cost of such a task.

"We do need to be fiscally responsible to our residents as well," he said.

Rather than five people making a decision on what they would like to happen to the fire station, Wall said it is important for the public to let their voices be heard. If residents do want to keep the fire station, it will take a large community effort to make it happen.

"It has to be a community-wide project," he said.

While the city is strongly considering selling the building, Brady said the city council does not intend to get rid of its significance. If it is eventually sold, the building will be memorialized in some way, she said. A decision has not been made yet, and Brady said there will be a public hearing before the building is sold.

If the city does not sell the building, keeping it would once again have to stem from the community. If the city's residents come up with a fiscally feasible plan to keep the fire station, Brady said the council would like to hear it.

"Anyone that wants to contact their councilman, this is a good time," she said.