West Chester extends stay in temporary fire station as new $3.1 million building progresses



West Chester Twp. trustees approved more funds to temporarily lease a space as the new Fire Station 73 construction continues.

They approved an additional $40,000, bringing the total cost to $121,593.

Township Administrator Larry Burks told the trustees last week the township originally signed a one-year lease from October 2019 through September 2020 and had a month-to-month option after that. The base monthly rent started at $4,325 and increased to $4,455 in the month-to-month lease.

“The property management firm and the owners of the property have been very, very generous to the township because not a lot of property managers will give a month-to-month lease after one year,” Burks said.

At the outset the estimated cost to raze the 50-year-old station on Duff Drive and build a new one was $3.5 million, and it was 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 about a year ago.

West Chester Twp. Fire Chief Rick Prinz told the Journal-News officials are hopeful they can move into the new station in August or September, but the amount the trustees approved will take them through November in the temporary space. He said the start of construction was delayed, and they broke ground last June.

“COVID has been a complicating factor with the construction of the station,” Prinz said. “Foreman are taking all the precautions on the job site just like any job site, but there have been some issues where workers can’t come to the site because they are infected or are in quarantine or we’ve been experiencing materials shortages.”

The township is paying for the new station out of a Tax Increment Financing District. There is a fund balance of $21.8 million and last year it generated $6.1 million — $3.5 million went to the Lakota Schools — 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 previously 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.

The original station wasn’t much more than a pole barn with two bays for vehicles. Only one side had openings on both ends so the vehicles didn’t have to back out on busy Duff Drive. Offices, sleeping quarters and other fire station necessities were added in 1992.

Prinz has said there were some aspects of the existing station that were 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 was 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 was also degrading the fabric and making the equipment potentially unsafe, Prinz said. The close quarters also meant the men and women who worked there were exposed to contaminants that can cause cancer.

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