West Chester Twp. officials say contractors really “sharpened their pencils” when bidding on the new Fire Station 73, as a result prices were nearly $1 million below estimates.
At the outset the estimated cost to raze the 50-year-old station on Duff Drive was $3.5 million and budgeted at $3.7 million. The township received about a dozen bids and awarded a contract to Graybach LLC for $3.1 million, with contingencies the trustees approved up to $3.4 million last week.
“To get 11 bidders is just amazing,” Trustee Mark Welch told the Journal-News. “That just creates more competition and so I believe that the contractors were sharpening their pencils. The range without the 10 percent contingency was $3.1 to about $3.7 (million), it was good, good for us.”
The township is paying for the new station out of 747 TIF funds. At the end 2019 there was a fund balance of almost $26 million and it generates almost $7 million a year in taxes to fund things that benefit the area within the TIF district.
The station is located in the industrial portion of the township and Trustee Ann Becker said those businesses are paying for the station.
“I appreciate the investment our business have made over the past several years because this station is being paid for with our TIF money and not paid for through our fire levy,” Becker said.
Fire Chief Rick Prinz said they have been discussing the new station since 2016. The township considered adding onto the existing building but a study showed that option was about $100,000 more expensive than building anew.
“We are very happy and satisfied to finally be able to pull the trigger on this and make this a very, very dynamic and robust fire station, not only for our firefighters and what they do, but the community itself,” Prinz said.
The original station was really nothing more than a pole barn with two bays for vehicles — only one side has openings on both ends so the vehicles don’t have to back out on busy Duff Drive — then offices, sleeping quarters and other fire station necessities were added in 1992.
There are some aspects of the existing station that are safety concerns. The turnout gear for the three or four firefighter/paramedics who man the station are stored in cages next to the Quint fire truck, so close it’s difficult to get things in and out of the truck.
The proximity to the fumes from the vehicles and sunlight that streams through the open bays is degrading the fabric and making the equipment potentially unsafe, Prinz said. The close quarters also means the men and women who work there are exposed to contaminants that can cause cancer.
The new station will have a number of amenities that will actually save money in the long-run according to Prinz. For instance, the “four-fold” doors where vehicles will exit the station, open more quickly and are much cheaper to maintain compared to roll up doors. Ceiling fans will be installed in every area of the station to keep air circulating so firefighters aren’t constantly adjusting the heat and air conditioning. Another plus is a large workout room — the current fitness area is barely bigger than a large walk-in closet. Prinz said it is crucial for the firefighters/medics to stay physically fit and this will encourage that.
The station is being built to last 50 years.
“We did build this building with the future in mind and added some additional space,” Prinz told the Journal-News. “There’s additional storage space in there, this has additional apparatus space, we’re building a three-bay station so there will be space for that. There’s additional rest room facilities, shower facilities and dormitory facilities.”
The fire department moved out of Station 73 and into its temporary home about a quarter mile away at 4976 Provident Drive last Wednesday. Baring any complications, like those that might be associated with problems mounting due to the coronavirus pandemic, Prinz said the new station should be ready next April or May.
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