In final word on concession stand, Cedar City Fire Department conducts controlled burn exercise

The aftermath of a controlled burn of the old concession stand at Bicentennial Park in Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 1, 2018 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — After hours of debating and arguing over spending $331,000 for a new concession stand in Bicentennial Park, Cedar City burned down the old one Friday night.

Fire engulfs the old concession stand at Bicentennial Park during a controlled burn, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 30, 2018 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George News / Cedar City News

The action came two nights after Councilman Paul Cozzens asked the other four Cedar City Council members to reconsider their decision from Nov. 14 to build a new concession stand and look at possibly remodeling the old one.

Cozzens argued that the city could possibly save an estimated $180,000 in remodeling costs, an amount he felt was significant enough to fight for, particularly after the council had just approved the controversial funding of $1.4 million for a new animal shelter — another decision he disagreed with.

During Wednesday’s meeting, City Manager Paul Bittmenn said when the power company moved a stand-alone electrical box located outside the building, water was present in the hole left behind. Council members argued this could affect the soundness of the building’s foundation later on.

They based their argument in part around a report by GEM Engineering showing collapsible soils underneath the building and reports by city staff that there had been a water leak that caused a great deal of moisture to seep into those soils that could cause unseen problems in the future.

However, Cozzens posted photos on social media Thursday showing some holes he had dug the night after the council meeting and the next day where the soil appeared to be relatively dry.

A hole dug next to the old concession stand at Bicentennial Parks shows dampened dirt, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 29, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Paul Cozzens, St. George News / Cedar City News

“It was damp, but when you dig three feet down to the bottom of a footing, you’re going to have a trace of moisture,” Cozzens said. “But it wasn’t gushing.”  

While many citizens on Facebook questioned the city’s decision to burn the building just hours after Cozzens posted these photos and just two days following the City Council meeting, Cedar City Fire Chief Mike Phillips confirmed his decision was made solely because he felt it was the best time to go forward.

The fire department had planned to burn the structure several times over the last few weeks, Phillips said. However, due to uncontrollable circumstances involving Environmental Protection Agency standards, they were unable to do so.

Crews planned again to burn it Tuesday night during routine training ops but were told by city administrators Cozzens had placed the issue back on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, so they had to wait.

“Then after the meeting we were told the council did not change their vote and we could burn it down, so we decided Friday evening would be the best time,” Phillips said. “A lot of our firefighters are volunteers, so Friday night was a good time because they could be there for the training, which is invaluable to these guys. Every training we get to do prepares us better for the real deal, and this was an awesome opportunity.”

The aftermath of a controlled burn of the old concession stand at Bicentennial Park in Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 1, 2018 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George News / Cedar City News

Cozzens confirmed the council and city staff had previously discussed burning the building down to try to save money by having less materials to haul to the dump but said he was not aware of when they were going to do it.

While the fight between Cozzens and his fellow council members has now come to an irreversible end, the councilman said he still feels strongly the council made the wrong decision.

“I am disappointed in the outcome on this. I believe we burned $220,000 worth of RAP tax funds last night,” Cozzens said. “This was a sound structure. It was stated that a water leak compromised the structure. I dug holes to prove there were no water issues the morning it was burned.

“I am frugal but not cheap. We could have remodeled the structure for a fraction of what we will spend. We need to be more careful with taxpayer funds. We need to apply this saying more often — ‘Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.’”

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  • Comment December 1, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    I guess it’s been decided then? LOL

  • Comment December 1, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    But the burning seems like a hillbilly backwoods thing to do. In rural Utardia I guess it’s appropriate? “Lets burn ‘er down! Yeehah!” 😉

    • Ricardo Cabeza December 2, 2018 at 12:44 am

      The legitimate function of burning the structure was stated; it provides training for fire department team members that better prepares them for emergency response. If the building has to go, it makes sense to take advantage of a training opportunity. In fact, I think it’s [email protected] genius. It seems like other options may not have been vetted thoroughly, which is disappointing. Your comment is useless.

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