West Chester trustees approve extra $300,000 for new fire station

The new $4.3 million West Chester Twp. Fire Station 73 is open for business. COVID caused a few cost overruns, but the final price was only 1.3% over budget.
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The new $4.3 million West Chester Twp. Fire Station 73 is open for business. COVID caused a few cost overruns, but the final price was only 1.3% over budget.

Credit: Submitted

Officials still say project was a success.

Weather, COVID and other issues delayed construction on the new West Chester Twp. Fire Station 73 — causing about $300,000 in extra costs. But officials still say the project was a success financially.

Firefighters and medics moved into the new station Sept. 18 but the township will officially open Station 73 on Duff Drive during an open house from noon to 2 p.m. today. The total cost, including architects, construction, renting a temporary space, land acquisition and delays due to the pandemic is $4.3 million, which is 1.3% over budget.

“I’m looking at this total project that was planned four years; and we’re just over 1% over and I think that’s very, very close,” Finance Director Ken Keim told the Journal-News. “I don’t want these budget numbers to be a ceiling that can’t be broken; if I do, we’re going to be over-budgeting right and left.”

The township originally considered renovating the 50-year-old station, but the construction-only cost estimate was $3.6 million compared to $3.5 million to raze the station and build a new one. It was budgeted at $3.7 million and trustees awarded a contract to Graybach LLC for $3.1 million, with contingencies the trustees approved up to $3.4 million. The final cost for construction was $98,489 over the approved amount with contingencies.

Last week, the trustees approved $294,600 to cover additional work needed on the project and $17,841 to fix asphalt the heavy fire and medic vehicles damaged at the temporary station space they leased during construction.

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

The township was not immune to the issues COVID has raised with the supply chain and workforce availability, which put a wrench in the works from the beginning.

“When we submitted for permits to the county, COVID delayed that review process so we got started with actual construction a lot later than what we had anticipated,” Fire Chief Rick Prinz said. “Once the shovels hit the ground, there were some unanticipated problems we had with the soil. It took time and funding to deal with the soil and then that whole delay pushed us into a condition because we didn’t start on time of where we had to deal with the winter.”

The township also added $27,000 to the price, buying a parcel of land behind the fire station to expand the green space area for hose testing, room for training and potentially additional parking down the road.

The new station has a number of amenities that will actually save money in the long-run, according to Prinz. For instance, the “four-fold” doors where vehicles exit the station, open more quickly and are much cheaper to maintain compared to roll-up doors. Ceiling fans were 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 old fitness area was 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 additional work on Station 73 was unexpected, but I guess we should have expected it with the condition of the economy and the amount of building materials and the extension of time for COVID,” Trustee Ann Becker said. “But I guess it’s par of doing business.”

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