$230,000 REED Fund Loan Helps Garden City, SD Fire Hall Open for the First Time in 20 Years

13 Feb 2024

Over the past two decades, the Garden City Volunteer Fire Department in Clark County, South Dakota had become inactive. Residents of Garden City and the townships of Eden and Maydell relied on neighboring fire departments for emergency services, which meant response times were slower and fires had more time to spread. This year, through a partnership with the Codington Clark Electric Coop (CCEC) and a $230,000 loan from the Rural Electric Economic Development, Inc. (REED) Fund, the Garden City Fire Hall opened and 21 volunteer firemen clocked in to protect their neighbors.  

“We are so excited to have a building that will provide years of service for the community,” says Scott Campbell, Treasurer of the Fire Department. “REED saw the need for a community project and helped make it happen.”

The REED Fund loan allowed the community of Garden City to build more than just a fire hall. It also created a long-term meeting space that will be used throughout the year. 

The Fire Hall is a Major Upgrade From the Previous Headquarters

The Garden City Fire Hall has all the amenities needed to protect the town from fires. It has three large garage doors, ample space for the trucks, an area for the volunteer firemen to clean up, a large kitchen, and even a meeting space. It is also a significant improvement from the small home where the fire department previously operated.

“The fire hall that was being used at that time was an old remodeled house with two small garage doors and a failing basement and foundation,” says Campbell.

Even if the old hall was safe to use, it didn’t have the storage, space, and utilities of a modern firehouse. Fortunately, there was overwhelming support from the residents of Garden City and its surrounding townships to bring back the volunteer fire department and build a better hall. 

Garden City Locked in Financing With the REED Fund

One of the biggest barriers to building a new fire hall was financing, so members of the fire department started meeting with local government officials and bank representatives to learn about their options. Eventually, the team met with Dave Eide, general manager of the CCEC, who suggested submitting a REED Fund application. He said the fire hall was a perfect project for a REED loan. The application went through and the fire department was awarded a $230,000 loan.

“Everyone needs fire protection,” says Eide. “We have lightning that causes fires and controlled burns that might get away from someone. We can’t be without rural fire departments. The new fire hall in Garden City is a huge asset to the community.”

With the loan in place, the Garden City volunteer firefighters could start construction on their new hall without worrying about financing and paying their contractors. 

The Whole Community Raised Money for The Fire Hall

While the REED Fund loan covered a significant portion of the fire hall costs, members of the fire department still needed to raise money to pay for the rest of it. This was a community effort with several fundraisers over multiple years.

The fire department sent out a letter to alumni of the local school (which closed more than 50 years ago) along with others having past roots in the Garden City area, inviting them to help if they could. Several graduates who were proud Garden City Dragons donated to build the new hall.

The firemen hosted turkey bingo, burger feeds, a gun raffle, and dozens of other events to raise money for the project. Each of these events was fun for the community while also bringing Garden City one step closer to having a new fire department.

“The folks in the Garden City area are such good down-to-earth people who are easy to work with and fun at the same time,” says Eide. “It was exciting to see everyone come together to work toward one goal.”   

The Fire Station Will Be Used Year-Round

Now that the fire hall is open, everyone in Garden City and its nearby townships has started to use it. The space isn’t just for storing fire trucks and housing the firemen. It also serves as a community center with wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, a large kitchen, and enough space for monthly town meetings. This will also be the new election precinct in the region.

“People are renting it for birthday parties, graduations, and anniversaries,” says Campbell. “The community had no other building with running water and kitchen facilities for these events.”

Through the REED Fund and community buy-in, the fire department has already been able to pay off some of its construction bills. This means the department saves money on interest payments, freeing up funds for additional projects. Next up, the volunteer firemen want to upgrade their trucks and gear so they can respond to calls more effectively.   

Learn More About the REED Fund

The new Garden City fire hall is just one project made possible by the REED Fund. Since 1996, the fund has provided more than $121 million in support to rural communities in Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The fund has supported 3.2 million square feet of facilities and impacted more than 10,268 jobs. This fund is governed by more than 25 electric cooperatives in the area, including the Codington Clark Electric Coop.

Read more stories about the REED Fund and how it supports this great region.