Council cuts fire station sticker shock: more than $1 million in facility costs slashed

After last week’s sticker shock regarding the plans for the city’s new fire station, the Stillwater City Council agreed to move forward with the project after slashing $1.4 million in costs.

The new price tag for the proposed central fire station is now $6,974,369. The city plans to build the new station next to the planned new U.S. Army National Guard armory.

“This is not the final layout but we’ve looked at every space to see if it could be reduced or shared (with the National Guard) and do something about it,” said Doug Wild of BWBR Construction.             Fourteen changes were made to the plans presented to the council last week. They include: remove the top of the training tower; a 50 percent reduction in the size of the mechanical mezzanine; eliminating two unneeded restrooms; reducing the sizes of the public restroom, entry and reception area and kitchen; eliminating the emergency operations center and creating a space to share with the National Guard; eliminating a laundry room, reducing size of fitness area and resident shower and restroom; reduce finishing costs, and eliminating the cold storage building.

When Wild was asked if things could be added in the future he said: “We do have room for another bay, and the fire chief has encouraged us to think a lot about the future. We won’t build anything today that is shelled out as empty-space so know that any future construction would have to be full construction with footings etcetera.”

Ward 2 Councilwoman Micky Cook wanted to emphasize the idea of a downtown sub-station in addition to the new fire station going forward but Fire Chief Stu Glaser said that based on past studies, that is not be the best option for the city.

“If you had your way, this plan would go down the tubes,” Ward 4 Councilman Mike Polehna said to Cook, “I get upset, and people in my ward get upset, with the lack of response time.”

Polehna added earlier in the workshop that a 2005 study showed it was best to have one single, centrally located station because the city could not afford two stations.

Glaser said that increasing personnel to staff a sub-station would cost about $400,000 a year.

Responding to Polehna, Cook said that with water rescues, tourists in summer, the aging population and the downtown historical businesses and buildings she saw the scale tipping dramatically to more calls downtown.

“Everybody needs to get out of the ward mentality and we need to make this decision for the whole city,” Cook said.

“Based on all the studies we’ve done with this central station there will be an equalized response time to the city,” Glaser said.

Currently Glaser said the response time to areas such as Millbrook and Liberty stands at nine or more minutes. He added the central station would reduce that response time and even it out across the city to five to six minutes.

After further discussion, the council voted 4-to-1 to stick with the current plan of a single centrally located fire station with the armory. They will build contemporaneously with the National Guard. Cook voted no because the effect on taxpayers is yet unknown.

Ward 3 Councilman Jim Roush said he believes that in the long run the city will benefit cost-wise from this decision and that the sticker shock from last week was a bit unfounded. He said that through research he discovered that similar-sized fire stations currently being planned in areas like Roseville have price tags coming in at around $10 million.

“I think we’re getting a lot for the money we are investing in this project,” Roush said.

Public hearings on the project will be held in October. After that, city officials will begin the bonding process.