BICKNELL — It’s been years since Bicknell has seen the construction of any new homes, according to Mayor Thomas Estabrook, so he’s struck a deal with two home builders in an effort to increase the city’s housing stock.

Over the last few years, Estabrook said city officials have taken on multiple empty lots, whether through commissioners’ sale or a state-funded effort to eliminate blight.

In all, he said, there are now more than 20.

“And what we want is for someone to take them on, build something,” Estabrook said.

The mayor said he’s had discussions in the past with developers, but definitive plans have never materialized; recently, he ran across an advertisement for Century Homes in Haubstadt, a popular manufactured home dealer.

“I thought, ‘I’ll just call them. See if they’ll even talk to me,” Estabrook said.

And talk, they did.

Estabrook said he scheduled a meeting both with Century Homes and Reinbrecht Homes, another Haubstadt home building company. He proposed giving them some of the more ideal lots in Bicknell for possible construction of new homes.

“Basically I told them, ‘I have dirt. I have empty lots I will give you or anybody. They already have utility connections. I just want you to build houses and sell them to individuals.

“ ‘No government involvement. No subsidies. I want it to be as easy and as painless as possible.”

Estabrook said both Century and Reinbrecht took some time to think it over, and, in the end, agreed to take on six lots — those most suitable for the construction of new homes — and market them to their own potential customers.

“So if someone wants to, they’ll give them the lot, and the (builders) will work with them on building a house there,” the mayor said.

“We’re giving them the option to show our dirt, our empty lots, to anyone who wants to build a new home,” he continued. “And just maybe we’ll entice some new residents to Bicknell.”

Estabrook said he saw the deal that was struck as “the easiest, quickest and most effective” way to encourage a handful of homes be built inside the city.

“I don’t want it to be hard,” he said. “I don’t have time for it to be hard.

“This is a good deal.”

In other city business, Estabrook said the city council met in special session Thursday night and approved the purchase of a new fire truck.

The city’s Board of Works in recent weeks reviewed proposals from a pair of fire truck manufacturers, 911 Fleet and Fire and Fire Service Inc., as the city looked to replace a 1997 fire engine.

It’s been a good truck, Estabrook said, but recently it began suffering electrical trouble, even leaving firefighters without a working hose on at least one occasion.

This new truck will be a larger tanker truck, one with more features, including the ability to hold up to 2,000 gallon of water, Estabrook explained.

It will replace the city’s 1997 engine — Bicknell has two others — and will put the city in a better position to offer aid to neighboring communities, too.

“We can hook it to any hydrant in town,” he said, “which is 98% of what we do, but if we ever do have to go into the county and help any of our neighbors, we would be in a position to help shuttle water.

“And the other (benefit) is just that we’re replacing older equipment so we have something that is reliable.”

The board recommended the council go with a truck made by Fire Service Inc. at a cost of $305,000.

The city will make a down payment of $55,000 and finance the rest over seven years, paying $38,000 per year. That money, he said, is in the fire department’s existing annual budget.

The down payment, Estabrook said, is being pulled from a variety of sources, from fire donations to the General Fund.

The new tanker truck will be here, he said, in about ten months.

The city will then sell the old 1997 engine, Estabrook said, and likely put the money toward the first annual payment.

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