Liberty and West Chester townships are taking the next steps toward building new fire stations that officials say will improve response times and the health and welfare of the staffs.
Bids to build a new firehouse and renovate two others in Liberty Twp. came in $500,000 less than estimates last week. The township estimated the projects cost at $5.7 million, and six bids ranged from $5 to $5.25 million.
“Sweet, isn’t it?” Trustee Tom Farrell said about the favorable bids. “All were very, very close, normally there’s always one really, really low, one that you question quality, and one really, really high, and I didn’t see that.”
The township is replacing the “pole barn” station on Yankee Road that was built mostly for for a volunteer department, not an all-day, every-day fire and EMS staff. The other two stations will undergo renovations to the sleeping quarters and other areas. Fire Chief Ethan Klussman said the new structure that will go up on Princeton Road at Cincinnati Dayton Road will be about 15,700 square feet, with four apparatus bays.
The township was able to reduce the cost to taxpayers by about $3 million before even seeking bids by deciding to build one instead of two new stations and by not moving headquarters to the new station. Farrell credited Trustee Steve Schramm with driving that savings.
Schramm said he has pushed to avoid using construction management firms for bidding projects. That puts more work on the township to be closely involved in the bidding process, but it saves money, he said.
“I was a little bit concerned because the fire station is the most technical of all the buildings and had the most potential for a budget blow, but it came in well and I’m very excited,” Schramm said.
Neighbors voiced concerns early on about having a fire station close, but Klussman said he hasn’t received negative feedback since. A landscaped mound topped with a privacy fence will shield neighbors.
Klussman said the existing Station 112 was not built for 24-hour crews, but the new station is, which will help firefighters as well as those they serve.
“The firefighters will actually have a place to have down time as well as dedicated sleep rooms, so we can make sure they’re getting the rest they need so we don’t have fatigue issues,” Klussman said. “For the residents, it’s a conventional construction building that we are building to last 30 to 50 years, so that we can continue to protect the residents. We moved to the (new) station to provide better coverage to the township.”
The township hopes to break ground in March and possibly finish this year or early in 2021. Officials will issue debt to pay for the projects.
West Chester is also replacing a fire station, tearing down Station 73 on Duff Drive and building on the site. The cost was estimated at about $3.5 million, and the cost for renovating the structure that was built in 1970 and then expanded through the years was estimated at $3.6 million.
The trustees will vote this week to hire O’Rourke Wrecking Company for $42,900 to level the old station and also advertise for bids for the new 8,500-square-foot firehouse.
Fire Chief Rick Prinz found a temporary location near Station 73 to house fire crews and equipment during the 12-to-18-month construction window.
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.
The old station is cramped, dilapidated and in some respects dangerous, officials said. Prinz said the new station will accommodate future growth and maintain the response times the “citizens enjoy.”
“That station is being built with the future in mind and that station, with the amenities we have in there, with the space we have in there, will be far better suited for the firefighters and their living conditions while they’re at that station on a 24-hour basis,” Prinz said.
Prinz told the Journal-News previously 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.
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