College Students, Volunteers Help Build New North Dakota Fire Hall

WAHPETON, N.D. (AP) -- College students here who have designed several projects to improve the city have proceeded from pencils and paper to heavy equipment.

They're helping to build a second fire hall from start to finish.

The $350,000 steel structure was first proposed nearly 25 years ago, when the state gave the city a chunk of land on the northwest corner of the North Dakota State College of Science campus. Like the fire department itself, it took volunteers to get the project off the ground.

``Money was always an issue with the city,'' said Bryan Wolfgram, an architectural drafting and building construction teacher. ``They were looking for alternatives; we were looking for a hands-on project.''

The venture kicked off in the spring semester of 2002, when about 20 students in an architectural drafting class collaborated on the design. The cement for the foundation was poured in 2003 and the concrete was allowed to set for one year.

The frame was erected last month, and the building is expected to be enclosed by Christmas. Completion is slated for May.

``I didn't think it would go up as fast as it did,'' said Alan Fosness, 20, a building construction student from Barton. ``It's really nice to see the progress ... just to know you're working on something that means so much to people.''

Randy Stach, who oversees the project as chairman of the architectural drafting and estimating department, said the idea was spearheaded by Fire Chief Don Klovstad, a maintenance worker at the college.

``He was the driving force to get it going,'' Stach said. ``It has been a real joint effort to save the city a lot of money.''

Many of the 45 volunteer firefighters have chipped in, including a master plumber, Klovstad said.

``The students have been involved with it from Day One, but our own members have also been out there with shovels in their hands,'' he said. ``We have people from all aspects of life in our department, and they really want to help other people.''

Drafting students at the college had previously helped the city with various projects. They drew up plans to improve buildings on Main Street. They also worked on designs to renovate the old armory and city hall.

``The fire hall project grew out of that,'' said Shawn Kessel, city administrator. ``It's great for us to be able to use that expertise. The city and college has enjoyed a rather nice relationship over the years.''

The 19-foot-high structure will have room for three fire trucks, along with offices, meeting rooms, restrooms and showers.

The city's main fire hall is on the south side. The new building will replace the current auxiliary fire hall next to City Hall. Traffic congestion at that location can make it difficult for trucks to navigate, Klovstad said.

The building project is 60 percent of the students' final grade. They spend an average of four hours a day at the site, at times braving lousy weather. The week they prepared the site for the frame to be erected, it rained hard for three of the five days, Wolfgram said.

``They didn't bat an eye,'' he said. ``They did what they had to do.''

A building construction club is raising money to buy coveralls to wear during bad weather.

Chris Krapp, 22, of Spiritwood Lake, is a transfer student in his fifth year of college. The project is the best hands-on experience of his career, he said.

``You're doing everything except digging the trench,'' he said.

It also gives students a lasting contribution to the city, Wolfgram said.

``I can foresee them coming back 10 or 20 years from now with their families and saying, 'That's the building I built,''' Wolfgram said. ``That's gratifying.''