On Tuesday, Feb. 11, Stillwater City Council approved a $9.2 million bond to move forward with plans for the new fire station that will be connected to the new National Guard armory. Construction of the armory is expected to begin this spring.
The decision passed in a 4-1 vote with Councilmember Tom Weidner dissenting.
The $9.2 million bond will cover expenses for equipment, construction, bidding and design completion costs for the new fire station. The proposal put initially forward by city staff Feb. 11 asked council to approve a $10 million bond, which would have also included money for the renovation of the police department.
Council members Weidner and Mike Polehna, citing the fact that the police station renovation wouldn’t take place for the next couple of years and that design plans weren’t as complete as the fire station, suggested council lower the bonding amount to cover the needed amount for the fire station and go for money for the police department renovation next year, while finding some funds to help move the police station design process forward.
City Administrator Larry Hansen said bond rates had increased recently, though they are still relatively low and the construction costs for the fire station project are now slated at $7.4 million. Originally the fire station project was slated to cost $6.4 million.
Community Development Director Bill Turnblad said that the price increased since the plans were presented to council a year-and-a-half ago. He added that the cost has gone up by four percent and additional costs that may occur due to the partnership with the federal government could be in the $600,000-$800,000 range, bringing the total cost of the project to $7.4 million.
“I think this (bonding) is premature,” Weidner said. “We don’t have final plans or specs for the design. We have estimates on the final cost, but we don’t have an actual final cost. I’d want to see the final numbers before we do anything. I fear over-borrowing. We should just get what we need.”
“It’s true that the design process is currently only at 35 percent completion level,” Hansen said. “But we run the risk of having the bond rates increase more over time. I think it would cost more money to delay the bond sale.”
Mayor Ken Harycki and Councilmember Ted Kozlowski agreed that it would best to start a bond sale right now so the money would be available when the project goes into the ground in late spring/early summer, shortly after the armory project begins.
John Huenink who is a member of the fire station design team, also addressed council.
“The $7.4 million is the final job amount,” Huenink said. “Our job as the design team, architects and engineers is to work within that budget. The whole goal is to be less than the $7.4 million in the end.”
Council put to a vote the option to go for a $9.2 million bond on March 4.
The motion carried 4-1 with Weidner dissenting.
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